Monday, June 26, 2017
After a simple but decent breakfast at my Holiday Inn Express in Dijon, I set off in relatively cool air. I decided to try to do the whole journey with the roof down. At 24º Celsius that made sense but by 11.17 am when I stopped for fuel it was 29º and I was feeling sleepy in such heat. I normally try to combine Speranza's refreshment with my own to minimise pit stops but that made no sense at that hour. So I bought a picnic lunch (including Red Bull to deal with the sleepiness), put the roof up and turned on the air-conditioning to keep me alert and my food fresh.
I was well North by the time I stopped for lunch at one of those charming French "aires" that make one ashamed of the squalor of our Motorway service stations. I took my lunch bag up a hill to a bench under a tree and spent a pleasant hour in the shade reading from my phone. One of the blog posts I read was about motoring in France and persuaded me to try harder to keep within shouting distance of the speed limits for the final run to Calais. Irritated as they are by our cavalier attitude to their speed cameras, the French police apparently like to lay traps for Brits in a hurry to catch ferries and Eurotunnel trains on that stretch.
The temperature had cooled as I headed north so I put the roof down and set out for a more law-respecting leg of my journey. This was an excercise in itself. It's all too easy to let Speranza get to jail-time speeds. She lacks the cruise control I used a lot in my days with Vittoria. Hitting "resume" after an overtake was a good way to rein in one's thoroughbred, I found. So instead I resorted to finding local drivers keeping to a speed that suited me (10-15 kph over the limit - a €135 spot fine at worst) and using them as my pace men. With the aid of three such French gentlemen, I completed my 560km run to Calais entirely without incident. I shall never know if any of them noticed or, if they did, found it odd that they were being shadowed. Along the way I also provided a lot of pleasure to French boy racers who got to overtake a Ferrari on the autoroute.
I arrived at the Eurotunnel a good two hours ahead of my planned departure but had an expensive "Flexiplus" ticket that allowed me to use any train I pleased. I had an afternoon tea in the Flexiplus lounge before catching the next train. The worst part of any such Continental road trip is returning to the chaos of roads in Britain's south-east. It's shocking how much government has neglected the infrastructure in the most productive wealth-creating parts of the country; preferring to tax them to subsidise other parts that have not been net contributors since before World War II! A couple of accidents brought traffic to a near standstill in both directions on the M25 at different times on my short journey back to London. There was also a serious assault in a service area that led to a petrol station being closed while the police investigated. Fortunately I had refuelled immediately after leaving the Eurotunnel train so that was not an issue for me.
I arrived home tired but happy and put Speranza to bed and back on her "battery conditioner" until the next trip. I shall now put myself to bed too as I have a busy day of pleasure tomorrow. Normal blogging service will resume shortly, though I hope first to post a link to the slideshow our tutors made of our best photos in Florence and Tuscany.