Saturday, 7 December 2013

Running for home

The last day of our holiday was the drive home. We were booked on a 3pm ferry and with the journey down taking around 10 or 11 hours, I wasn't that confident of making it - even with a revised route and a 5am start.
As it happened, we got started just after 5am with a deep frost and a slightly nervous run down to the main road. The road down was dry, so no ice except the bit near the farm, but it was no problem.
I was determined that the sat-nav would not take us via Annecy, Geneva and the Jura, but perversely, the sat-nav had decided the best way back was via Lyon and that was fine. It also kept us on the road past Dijon and Rheims, which was bang on.
My engine warning light was still on, but the car was running fine and the weather was pretty good, just a few fog banks caused by temperature inversions in the steep valleys. Southern France has a speed restriction when pollution levels reach a certain point and this was activated all along the route from Chambery to Lyon and on the Autoroute de Sol north from Lyon. It meant setting the cruise control for 70mph, rather than 80 and there were also long stretches where we were down to 60mph.
I was struggling to maintain an average of 50-55mph for the first couple of hours, but once the speed restrictions were gone, we were able to cruise at 80mph on really quiet roads. I'd got enough fuel on board to make it almost to Calais, but we'd need to stretch our legs at least once, so I decided to stop and fill up once we'd got within a couple of hundred miles.
As the sun came up, we had a magnificent sight away to the east. From the autoroute north of Lyon, we could look across at what seemed to be a distant mountain range. At first I thought it was low cloud near the horizon, but as the sun came up, the shapes grew more distinct and it was obvious we were looking at the Alps and the distinctive profile of Mont Blanc rising above the rest.
It was a nice farewell. Margaret has loved the mountain scenery, she's been sleeping at a thousand metres (about the height of Scafell or Skiddaw) and has been up to 2300 metres (over 7,000ft), which will be the highest she has trod on solid ground).
This is small potatoes next to Tom's Andean exploits, but when you've lived the last 35 years two metres above sea level, then it's pretty exciting.
We were now making better time and gobbling up the miles (and the motorway tolls). I didn't know whether it was a good thing or not, but my engine warning light had gone out and the car was now stuttering a bit before the turbo kicked in. Nothing to do but carry on and let Andy Bunyan have a look when we got home.
We did stop just once, for about 15 minutes, and we made great time, getting to Calais before 2pm and being put on an earlier ferry. That route via Lyon is so much faster.
British motorways seem very crowded after the French autoroutes, but we made decent time and were home a little after 6pm. As a treat, we'd bought two pizzas from Super U in Bourg and I got those in the oven as soon as we were unpacked. Margaret declared hers absolutely delicious.
Next morning I was dispatched good and early to pick up Holly from the kennels. The good things about Jo Gee's kennels is that you can drop off or pick up at the weekend, provided you do it at the start or the end of the day.
We were looking forward to having Holly back and as I pulled into the yard, I could see she was out in the run. She spotted the car and her tail started wagging and when I got out she was jumping with excitement. When we got home, Margaret was waiting, but Holly was so excited that she ran past her and spent the next 10 minutes running maniacally around the garden, barking and spinning around. It makes you sad to see how much she loves her home.