Friday, 30 September 2011

The Toy's Trip Report

(Or what a little red car did on his holidays.)

Two Monday's ago, I got loaded up with people and stuff and drove to Normandy, France.  I had my "passport" (GB sticker).


 My ticket (attached to my rear vision mirror).

An awful lot of luggage.

Yet more luggage.  (How much do three people need for one week?)

And "the crew" (that's the Boy, the Girl and Howard, our host).

We travelled via the Channel Tunnel, on Le Shuttle.  It's quicker than the ferry and much more comfortable if you're a car - no need to worry about some idiot belonging to the vehicle next to you flinging his door open and damaging your paintwork.  And, no possibility of sea-sickness.   Also, the humans have to stay with their vehicles on Le Shuttle, whereas on a ferry they're forceably removed and made to walk through shops stinking of foul smelling perfumes (which always clings to their clothes.  Yuck!).

If you've ever wondered what the inside of the Channel Tunnel looks like, here's a "car's eye view" of the interior of the train:

When we got to the far side, the Boy drove me into Cite Europe for a rest, while the crew went to the bank, bought lunch in Carrefour, stretched their legs and swapped drivers (the Girl did the next stretch).  Cite Europe is a shopping mall right beside the Eurotunnel terminal.  Must remember for next time that the quickest way to get there is to drive into the Total garage forecourt, then back onto the side road, left at the roundabout and into the car park 200 metres beyond.  Otherwise, you have to go the long way round via the motorway and that means adjusting very quickly to French roads. 

French roads are a bit strange for us right-hand-drivers.  Firstly, we have to remember to drive on their side of the road, not ours, and that means going around roundabouts the wrong way. 

See, the Boy is sitting in my driver's seat.  It's on the other side  to all those left-hand-drive cars.  He had to drive sitting almost in the gutter on some roads.  Also, it means we have to wear "blinkers" so that our lights don't blind the on-coming foreign cars.

(Do you see that THING stuck on my light?  That's a blinker!  Like horses wear!  As if I'd ever deliberately blind someone.  How insulting!)

Driving in France means different speed limits and having to remember to pay attention to the kilometres on my speedo, not the miles.  On their motorways, cars drive up to 130km/h (that's over 80 mph), while in  towns the speed is usually 50km/h (around 30mph).  On the whole, their roads are good:  well signposted, smooth surfaces with not many potholes.

Although some cars got a little too close to my rear bumper for my liking, most were very well behaved - only staying in the left lane for long enough to overtake a vehicle before pulling in.  And they indicated (unlike London drivers who think that using their indicators costs extra).  I soon got over my nerves and was whizzing along pretending that I'm really a Porsche in disguise.  Then we got to the Pont Du Normandie.

No photos can do it justice.  That bridge is steep.  Since it has a peage (toll booth station) at the bottom, you can't even get a good run-up.  It even has pedestrians.

We drove from there to Pegasus Bridge, near Caen.   The British captured the Bridge on the night before the D-Day landings.   I drove over the replica/replacement.  It looks the same but it's larger and stronger than the original.

It was named for the emblem of the Paratroopers who liberated it.  Their story is told in the film, The Longest Day, starring Richard Todd.  In real life, Todd was one of the reinforcements on the mission.

The original bridge is now in the museum beside the canal.  The first allied soldier to be killed by the enemy during the D-Day landings,  Lt Brotheridge, died on that bridge.  There is a plaque to mark the spot.  Someone had left fresh flowers there on the day we visited.

The humans tell me that, if you get the chance, the museum is well worth a visit.  As well as the original bridge, it also has a replica of the Horsa gliders the men flew in to capture the Bridge.  (The originals didn't survive the conflict.)

The replica was built by engineering enthusiasts to the original plans.  It's mainly made of plywood.  Must have been a scary flight, not much in the way of brakes or steering and no engine.

From Pegasus Bridge, we continued on our way into the heart of the Normandy peninsula, to the farm house where we stayed.  We visited shops and markets, etc, but  I think I'll leave the rest story to another day.  Time to park up my wheels and rest.

Good night.

- Toy

1 comment:

amy said...

Okay, this is super interesting. The Chunnel, that bridge, and the Pegasus Bridge--I don't know that story, I'm going to have to look it up. Thanks, Car!