Riots in Calais, Torrents on the Thames & The Long Drive Back to Long Pants

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The Gressoney Valley – where Nature seems to say “Just LOOK what I can do!”

“Riot Police have been drafted into Calais because of ‘Chaos’ with migrants and Operation ‘Stack’ is in force at Dover.”

Up popped the happy news on the internet.

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Riots at Calais? It was in The Daily Mail so it must be true!

It was from the Daily Mail, so I took it with a pinch of salt. However it did get the antennae of angst wagging.

The migrant problem is one of the reasons that we are wary of The Channel Tunnel, with all the hiding places provided by our spacious, inviting panel van with no windows in it and our homely caravan with its large, external lockers and easy-to-pick locks…

However, we we had also heard reports of migrants stopping traffic on the approach to Plan B; the ferry port at Caen. Migrant-free crossing by sea is clearly not all plain sailing either!

I did a fact check on both the Eurotunnel and the UK Government websites. Neither reported any problems at Calais. The Daily Mail perhaps forgot to mention that part of the ‘chaos’ was due to a mass migration OUT of England by spectators for a European football match, the Le Mans Race – and the fact that it was the UK schools’ half-term holiday week!

I had forgotten about half-term. Being closer to England, the phone decided that now was the perfect time to alert us to a voicemail left three weeks earlier. It was from the campsite on the River Thames at Walton, which we had booked months in advance ahead of our homecoming. It delivered the good news that we couldn’t stay there because the site was flooded!

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Narrow Boat Kismet – more suited than Caravan Kismet to the underwater camp site at Walton!

I called straight back to ask if the weather had improved or if they had any hard-standing pitches available. “We currently have torrential rain and 40mph winds due to Storm Brian. All the hard standing booked out weeks ago. We rang you straight away and left a message, but you didn’t answer…” Of course now, we were struggling to get a hard-standing pitch ANYWHERE because it was half term and every campsite was packed to the gunwales with small people!

In an attempt to mitigate any potential migrant problems at Calais, we spent the night before our crossing at Le Touquet, a respectable distance away. I asked at the campsite reception if they had heard about any trouble at Calais and they simply looked bemused. They checked the internet and the only stories about migrants at Calais in the French press were very old news indeed. I guess that The Daily Mail just enjoys adding fuel to the fires of UK migrant hysteria.

We had left the Gressoney valley swathed with the beginnings of autumn splendour. Val de Lys is one of those places where Nature seems to say “Just LOOK what I can DO!” We had stopped for our traditional coffee just under the Aguille du Midi and Mont Blanc.

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Our traditional coffee stop under Mont Blanc’s Aguille du Midi

The sun had still been shining in the mountains, but on entering Northern France, we seemed to have driven straight from our endless summer into the drab, grey, wet of winter. We had moved directly to winter; did not collect €200 and did not pass autumn.

It had been dark when our alarm went off that morning. Even more depressingly, by next weekend, we would have lost not one but two hours of daylight as our extra hour of Continental time would evaporate just as the British clocks went back an hour for daylight saving!

We had allocated three days to get to Calais but elected to get our heads down and go as far as we could. It meant fewer travelling days for the dogs – and the nifty shades of grey that filled our windscreen were not inviting for stopovers anyway. Our heads had been way down – we drove the 616.7 miles to Le Touks in one hit!

With Storm Brian being not the Messiah, but a very naughty storm, I had posted advice on driving in high winds in answer to questions posted on several caravan forums. As windsurfers, we have a special relationship with the capricious wind.

We had checked the forecast, which didn’t look too bad but as we approached the coast, we had to cross a number of viaducts, all of which were preluded by taut and turgid wind socks! I could feel the caravan being buffeted and thought that it would be rather ironic if we were blown over, having dealt out so many ‘bon mots’ about driving safely in high winds!

We arrived, relieved and safe at Le Touquet, pitched in a record half hour and took the dogs for a much needed run on the huge expanse of beach as the sun set.

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After a 616.7-mile drive, a much-needed run on the beach!

The next day, it rained and rained and rained and rained! It barely got light. We walked the dogs on the beach and got thoroughly soaked before we left for The Tunnel. I had put it off as long as I could. Finally, I had to abandon shorts and make the dreaded move into long pants.

Long pants are the harbinger of The End. The End of our Endless Summer.

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Long pants; harbinger of The End. The End of our Endless Summer.

With the deadline of a crossing, we always like to leave ourselves plenty of time and it was a good job. Roadworks had closed the slip road to the Eurotunnel terminal.

We followed the diversion for MILES to Guisnes, but after going around three sides of the terminal, we seemed to be heading away from it! We rang Eurotunnel, only to be told that both slip roads were open! “They’re not!” I said “They are!” they said. “Other people have checked in!” they told me, by way of letting me know that I was stupid.

We followed the diversion again and headed to Guisnes again. We decided that it was clearly the wrong way, ignored the diversion and got ourselves back on the motorway in the opposite direction. We got to the terminal and checked in. So we’re not stupid. Just all the other lost-looking cars, caravans and motorhomes that we saw driving to Guisnes..!

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A compartment to ourselves on Eurotunnel. Maybe stupid is contagious!

And we can also report that, having done a complete circumnavigation of the terminal TWICE; we did not see ONE single migrant! God Bless you, Daily Mail!

P1090157Back in Blighty. Back in long pants. I could feel my tan fading with every mile. Within one hour of pitching back in the UK, we had four damp ‘n dirty dawgs and I discovered the obvious; sandals are not suitable footwear for walking in waterlogged woodland and fields.

Still, despite the drizzle, we got the awning up. We had bought a Great British fry up, but much as we were looking forward to it, we were too shattered to cook it.

We demolished a sandwich and a couple of beers.

Then we slept like babes!

Mark cuddles one of the damp ‘n dirty dawgs.

Welcome home!

 

We managed to get on to our seasonal pitch at Hunter’s Moon C&MC site in Wareham early. It was a relief to have somewhere to pitch, albeit with a 100-mile rather than a 5-mile commute to see Mark’s Mum!

The header photo of the Monte Rosa Massif reflected in Lake Gover, Gressoney St Jean, is courtesy of Graham Smith. 

If you follow World Wide Walkies, you will know that our homecomings are never straightforward. This one was no exception. Join us next time as we are subjected to a Fidose of Reality! 

If you are not following World Wide Walkies, why not?! Make my day – enter your email address in the box or click ‘Follow’ and our Canine Caravanning Capers will drop into your inbox every week. And don’t forget to tell your friends!

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