Now that we are about to leave Ireland the weather has greatly improved - after the wettest August since records began we
are about to have the sunniest September since records began - maybe. Accordingly, we decide to drive down the coast and go
for a walk. After getting slightly lost, we end up at Dún Laoghaire. This is one of the places that the ferries sail from
and is pronounced "Dun Leery", I think.
We watch three people (count the feet and divide by two) sailing a small yacht who clearly have not got a clue what they are doing. They are trying to manouvre round the harbour using just the jib and eventually crash into the pier with lots of shouting. They even refer to a "rope" as a "rope" which is a cardinal sin in boats. People in the know ( ie people drinking gin and tonics in the club house) refer to a "rope" as a "sheet". Why, I have no idea.
I find this very comforting - maybe I will get a little boat one day and crash round the harbour like an idiot. Not yet though.
Today we are departing from Ireland and we set off for the ferry, which sails at 9.15pm. We duly arrive at 8.15pm to find
the barrier down and nobody about. After a while a cheerful girl turns up and I ask if we are early. "No", she replies
"Everybody else is on board!". We drive on and are put right at the front of the lorry deck. So far so good.
The boat, the Stena Adventurer, steams off very quietly (to save fuel, I understand) and we have an excellent meal and enjoy the leisurely pace of the journey.
As we get nearer to the coast the lights come on and I marvel at the magnificent collection of ropes at the front of the
boat. Actually, of course, I mean sheets at the bows of the ship.
We arrive in Holyhead at 00.40am but when we go down to our car we find that we are in a horror movie. Every square inch is full of trucks and we have to walk the entire length of the ship in between huge trucks which are only inches apart - anybody who was a shade on the beefy side would not have made it through and when we arrive at our car I am in a state of shock and my girlfriend is close to tears.
I arrange to see a friend at the Trafford Centre, which is Manchester's answer to the Egyptian pyramids - in 3,000 years
time archeologists will wonder at the genuine plastic palm trees and acres of marble.
We all eat at the Cafe Rouge which has so many special offers that it is hard to work out what to do. Our waitress is very pretty but we are so carried away that we forget to take a photograph - later my friend's daughter shows up who is equally pretty and so my girlfriend photographs her - here she is.
We are up bright and early because we are driving to Dover in a hire car and then getting the ferry to Calais as foot
passengers where we will hire another car better equipped to drive on the wrong side of the road. We are making good time
and drive through central London where my girlfriend amuses herself by taking photos of various pretty girls out of the
window. At one point she spots a male body builder with substantial pectorals. "Wow!" she yells "Look at the tits on that"
which leaves me in semi hysterics for the rest of the day.
I am expecting disaster as statistically whenever we set off on one of these journeys something goes wrong. And so it does. The police have closed the A2 for no discernable reason and it is chaos. On top of that our Tom Tom is not satisfied with the postal code of the Car Hire Company and demands to know the street - as if. We follow the ferry signs and suddenly arrive at the ferry where everything goes right - an earlier P&O ferry which has been delayed leaves in five minutes and we are whisked aboard the Pride of Calais where we dine in great style.
When we arrive in France there is no sign of taxis but we say "taxi" to a guy propping up a wall and he organises one which arrives in five minutes at which point dozens of people emerge who also want taxis - tough luck guys, you either have it or you don't and we have it - the taxi that is.
It seems that they have painted the crains in Calais in the same colours as the local post girl and I can quite see why.
As for the boats - just add water, guys. It really is no fun trying to float on mud.
Later, as we drive through the rain we suddenly come across the most gorgeous abbey in the small village of Saint Riquier. Unlike anything I have ever seen. Why have I never heard of it?
Finally we arrive in Amien where the rain is just torrential.
When we wake up, the sun is shining! We go to admire the Cathedral in Amiens which is vast - almost too big to comprehend.
No doubt SaintRequier will have been a bit sniffy about it "Big doesn't necessarily mean better" or "Possibly a little
vulgar, don't you think?". Not being a saint (yet) I couldn't possibly comment.
Later we are stopped by the Gendarmarie who wish to know why we are doing 117kph in a 90kph zone. They decide that since we are from England they will let us go with an apology for their poor English. Don't worry about it guys, we forgive you but perhaps some evening classes in future?
In Paris we are overwhelmed by the pretty girls and the architecture - the Arc de Triomphe is huge - look at the people on the top. It appears that the French are celebrating one of their many triomphes - maybe the Maginot Line - with a band and a few soldiers. The guy in the blue uniform is not rocket assisted as I had at first thought but merely carrying a spare cornet.