After much sweeping and wiping, mopping and cleaning, packing and swearing, followed again by more sweeping, we finally left Camping Village de la Plage late Saturday morning, en route to Brest for lunch.
As far as I could tell from the small part we saw, Brest seemed a nice, fairly modern but attractive city, notwithstanding the docks which were as ugly and unwelcoming here as they are in any town. Apart from those without docks. They could have been mostly avoided, other than by not building them in the first place, had the tour bus’s navigational traditionalists – ignoring the satnav’s earlier exemplary work in getting us through Quimper and instead preferring to use intuition and blind optimism – stopped arguing with it at literally every turn. Nevertheless, the electronic navigator stood firm, safe in the knowledge that it knew far more about Breton roads than anyone else, and delivered us to our Brest feeding just after midday.
A small but decent meal at the first available crêperie allowed my in-lawesses ample time to mooch around a toy shop on the pretext of looking for educational toys to improve the kids’ embryonic French language skills. (This ambition would later lead to a low point on the journey; the playing of badly sung French nursery rhymes over the tour bus’s CD player.) Just as welcome, for me anyway, was the chance for what would prove to be just the first of many ‘comfort breaks’. Food poisoning, even if mild compared to my previous experience, was a pain in the backside.
Three further hours split between driving and comfort breaking saw us to St. Malo, looking, rather unsurprisingly, more colourful in the evening sun than it had in the dark of night the previous week. After some driving around and a few more exchanges of opinions we found a car-park so as to pass the hour before check-in. The Marshans and Grampa walked around the town’s curtain wall along the seafront to take in the view and ponder on the town’s long and illustrious history, and the in-lawesses sought out Brittany’s last remaining unvisited patisserie.
We reconvened and quickly stumbled upon the ferry terminal, where we barely moved an inch for two and a half hours as the boat was again late – this time by 90 minutes. This at least gave plenty of time to negotiate the frankly revolting excuse for a public convenience. It was barely more than a porcelain-lined cess-pit, but even more disappointing was the coffee kiosk, which didn’t sell flapjacks.
We were the third-last car to be invited on to the Condor Vitesse, but as they may have thought the three hundred-weight of éclairs was a potential sinking hazard, you can’t blame them for being cautious. I was just grateful that NCP hadn’t been given their contract, or we might have ended up on the observation deck. We had not even reached our seats (which were nowhere near their stated location) before we felt the gentle rumble that meant we were on the move – although my wife had reached the queue for the refreshments. Outstanding work.
The waters north of Jersey were quite choppy, so everyone tried to sleep through the inevitable nausea and it was a relief when we finally docked at Poole some time after 1:30am BST. As good Karma for being last on the boat, we were just about first off and, after a brief worry about running out of diesel, scooted home in record (but entirely legal, officer) time. We were all in bed (different ones) by 4:00am (although it was 5:00am for those of us still on French time) and with only three more cases of food poisoning to go.
All in all a very successful holiday for me, other than the two days lost with the migraine. And the four with food poisoning. And the strong, cold coastal winds. And getting trench-foot in Quimper. Roll on next year, when we will be camping in Baghdad…