We arrived into Newhaven at 4am, a surreal time to be up and about at the best of times.
By 4:30am we were sitting on the platform waiting for the first train to arrive at 5:15am. It was a tired forty five minutes where Agnes was able to get into her bed which I’d diligently carried from Valbonne, curl up in a furry ball and go to sleep. I resisted the temptation to push her out and try to squeeze into it myself. It looked very inviting!
From Newhaven, we changed trains at Brighton which took us to London Victoria and then it was an easy step to Oxford Circus and then on the Bakerloo line to Queens Park.
We made it home at 7:45am. Taking the time difference into consideration it had taken twenty three hours and forty five minutes. I wistfully thought of the four hour door to door I used to do before we got a dog.
It was raining, grey and cool in London after the heat of Spain. It was nice to be home. We collapsed and for the next two days did nothing until I had to go back to work.
Would I do it again?
The adventure began at Antibes where Agnes and I boarded the TGV for Paris. I’d apparently splashed out on First Class tickets so off we went in air conditioned comfort with a glorious view of the Côte d’Azur.
All was going well, after a couple of false starts I’d managed to get two seats and Agnes was asleep. Then came an announcement.
From what I could understand the train was en panne (whatever that meant) but I took it to mean in pain. I was right as we stopped, literally ground to a halt and that was that.
Eventually, as things were getting hotter and after lots of bumps and bangs from below and after a false start we were off again.
We arrived into Paris an hour late so I set off by metro to Paris St Lazare where I managed to find a train to Rouen, my next stop on the journey.
At Rouen we had a little time so Agnes finally went to the toilet having held on for seven hours and then we were off on our final French train to Dieppe.
Dieppe seemed a little depressing after the Côte d’Azur. It was drizzling but then a rainbow appeared and the port was revealed as the inspiration it had been for the Impressionists.
After a couple of hours where we walked around the port and back, we walked along what turned out to be a long way to the ferry terminal along a dark deserted road. Luckily I had the ferocious Agnes to protect me!
By midnight we boarded the ferry and by a strange oversight of management, I managed to install Agnes under a table instead of in a cage below deck. We were both happier and so as the engines revved up and we cast off, we were heading back to England.
Au revoir la belle France! A bientôt.
There are limited options to get a dog back into the UK. The reason for this is rabies so despite having a pet passport and the required vaccines, travelling without a car is a challenge.
We had decided to leave the car in France as we couldn’t park it in London without registering it in the UK. Too tedious to even contemplate which meant that alternate means of travel had to be found for Agnes.
Flying was very difficult as British Airways, Easy Jet and Air France don’t fly dogs into the UK for the reason listed above so that only left the ferry.
With a car we have hopped through the Eurotunnel but as a foot passenger there was only one route possible with a dog, Dieppe to Newhaven.
The challenge then, to get from Antibes to Paris. Paris to Rouen, Rouen to Dieppe. Midnight ferry from Dieppe to Newhaven then 5am train from Newhaven to Brighton, Brighton to London Victoria and two tubes to get to Queens Park and home by 8am hopefully…
As I write this, we’re forty minutes into the journey heading towards Paris.
As I am inevitably older than I was twenty years ago, I have embraced the idea of comfort on the beach.
I am a big fan of the pebbly beach (no sand to get stuck anywhere) but it comes at a cost as the stones are rather hard and very unforgiving.
The beach umbrella, cool bag and seating cushion have all become de rigour for sitting on the beach.
There may be an element of pensioner about it but it’s just a matter of time before I succumb to the allure of the sun lounger.
We arrived as scheduled for Big T to start work which had always been our deadline.
We were very hot and sticky after driving 3000kms and in hindsight realised that perhaps (as always) we had done a bit too much but oh the places we’d seen!
With three days rest before I started the epic twenty four hour return journey consisting of seven trains, one ferry and one small dog with a European passport in furry paw, I wasn’t feeling rested to be going back to work.
Still, what an adventure!
I had read that there was increased security at the French borders and 25km, seven hour traffic jams.
We’d seen it when we left France going to San Sebastián so I decided we should err on the side of caution and leave early. Spontaneous of me indeed.
We left Barcelona before sunrise, exhausted after our seven hour walk around the city but happy to leave the chaos of the previous evening.
We passed along the sleeping suburbs of the Costa Brava as the sun started to rise and before long, passed through the border back into France.
No security, no traffic, nothing. So much for getting up early!
Still, we arrived at Sète in good time and despite our initial misgivings, fell in love with a small working port with a big personality.
Amazingly we had arrived on the last day of the boat jousting competition, a medieval tradition for which Sète is known.
We couldn’t believe our luck as for the next five hours, fat men in boats poked each other with big sticks. It was brilliant!
The crowd lined the canal and cheered for either the red or blue boat.
Jousting continued into the evening and even after dinner, the exhausted crews were still pulling the heavy wooden boats.
Sète is just beyond Montpellier and definitely worth a return visit, if not for the jousting then certainly for some of the freshest seafood imaginable.
Game, Sète and Match!