Salut, Calais!

Our mum & daughter road trip had finally come to an end. It was a whirlwind ten days holiday which was filled with lots of laughter, meaningful conversations and a few unexpected events. I was very sad because the holiday with my precious mum was over but also I was relieved because I managed to finish the 3756km drive without any incident and to deliver mum home safely.

After leaving Cité Europe, we followed Google’s instructions for Eurotunnel Terminal.

Wind mills were hard at work at Calais…

My word of advice for anyone who is considering using Google Map in order to find the right terminal for cars and coaches is, DON’T USE GOOGLE MAP unless you want to end up at a terminal for freights!

Until we found ourselves at the check-in gates for lorries, I had 100% confidence in Google Map. However, the glitch let us down at the very end. Shame on you, Google!

After a few frantic three-points turns and whizzing around countless roundabouts, we managed to find the right terminal without using satnav and parked the car at their car park.

‘Phew, that was a bit hairy!’, we agreed as we alighted from the car…

We looked around a shop and used a bathroom before joining a queue for the immigration.

The queue through UK Border Force point was long and slow …

Same as the cross-channel ferry journeys, an interview by the immigration officer took place while we were in our car. Even though, the interview was friendly and courteous, it was much more thorough , therefore, it took a lot longer than I expected. Since the UK terror threat level was still critical, it was understandable that the border force wanted to scrutinise every single person entering the UK properly.

Finally, we were boarding…

Salut, Calais…

A journey to Folkestone was smooth and eventless.

When we arrived to the UK, the sun was already set…

So this was the way our road trip ended. I never thought that writing a chronicle of the holiday would take this long! Anyway, that’s a wrap! Thank you for your patience and I hope our adventure was entertaining and inspiring somehow. We are already plotting another mum & daughter road trip 2018 which will take us all the way to the south of France and back. I can hardly wait…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Cité Europe

Since there was not much thing to see or could do in the old city centre, mum and I decided to spend the rest of our time in France at Cité Europe before boarding a train back to the U.K.

Cité Europe was a shopping centre situated next to the Channel Tunnel terminal. The complex contained over 140 shops, a hypermarket, a 12-screen cinema complex and around 20 restaurants. The shopping centre opened on March 21, 1995, about 10 months after the completion of the tunnel.

I still remember the hype the shopping centre had created in the U.K. The Brits en masses flocked to Calais in their cars, and they laden their car boots with cheap booze and cigarettes at the shopping centre before heading home.

After more than two decades, the place looked a little dated and tired…

By the way, the lamp posts of the shopping centre car park remind you something?…

Don’t you agree that the curve of the lamp post looks like the Martian’s craft’s red-eye heat-ray gun in The War of the World’s (1953)?

The car park was huge – spaces for more than 4000 cars, therefore, we must make a note near which entrance our car was parked…

The shopping centre was designed by a French architect, Paul Andreu…

The architect is famous for being in charge of planning and constructing Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris.
So when was the last time I used the airport?
Since Eurostar connected London with French capital in May 1994, I have been using the train only. That means I haven’t been to the place for nearly 25 years!

Large skylights introduced abundant natural light into the interior of the shopping centre…

We found the shop floors very quiet. It must have been because the famous annual summer sale – Les soldes d’été was still a few days away and probably the shoppers didn’t see the point of paying full prices.

Children’s play area near Carrefour…

We did some grocery shopping at the hypermarket, buying cheese and sweets to take home. I must say, the Carrefour branch at Cité Europe was humongous! The floor area was enormous and the selections were stupendous.

Mum was happy (and tired) after shopping at Carrefour…

Ok, shall we go back to our car?

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Bonjour Calais!

So how is Calais like? I wondered as we came off from A26 and followed road signs for the city centre. Until the previous evening, we never thought about visiting the place at all. However, we were intrigued by the news programme we watched on TV while we were chilling out in our room at Reims. The topic was about how the Calais tourist board were launching a new campaign to attract more visitors to the city. ‘Shall we see the place since we have more than a few hours to kill before returning to the U.K?’

On our way to the old city centre, we skirted around the Eurotunnel compound. I must say, the security around the complex was much tighter than the last time I saw it. All those high fences and barbed wires meant to be a deterrent to illegal immigrants around the port? They looked like perimeter fences of a high-security prison.

So where is the actual city centre?

In our sight, there was a tall pointed tower which looked like a church’s. Is it a cathedral or something? In order to get ourselves to there, I pulled in our car to one of the parking bays and googled with keywords, such as Calais town centre, Calais shopping, Calais downtown, etc. However, the search didn’t hit anything obvious except Calais Town Hall.

Ok then, we start from there. We headed to the town hall…

After negotiating unexpectedly heavy traffic and a series of roundabouts in quick succession, we arrived at the town hall. ‘So this is it, then.’ We parked the car and stepped out into the bright sunshine of high noon.

Mum and the town hall…

The city hall was very pretty. They had a well-tended garden and a proper old-fashioned Routemaster double-decker bus which was displayed as a garden ornament.
I imagine that the visitors from the U.K must be very important to the city’s economy, despite acrimony and suspicion brewed up between two countries during the recent refuges crisis. However, the British currency has become significantly weaker since Brexit and as a result, shopping at Calais is no longer very attractive for the Brits, and it must be hurting the Calais’ trades badly too.

Shall we drive around the city and see if we find anything interesting along the way? We climbed back into the car and followed the local traffic for a while…

Sadly, we didn’t come across anything inviting or remarkable while we cruised through the city.
Having said that, we saw small groups of young African men frequently. They seemed to be wandering around on the streets without any aim and all of them were carrying duffle bags over their shoulders. ‘Are these people the remnants of the infamous Jungle?’, mum and I wondered as we drove past them…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

J’aime l’autoroute française!

We checked out of our hotel at Reims around 10:00 and headed towards our final destination, Calais. The city was 274km away and A26 would take us there.

I must say, driving on the French motorway was a pleasure…

You see what I mean?

Especially, the landscape around Arras, was very flat and open. The scenery may have lacked the grandeur of the Alpine region with the rugged peaks and winding roads, but I preferred the calm and predictable vista on A26 after the continuous driving of the past nine days.

There was just a blue sky and golden crop fields on the both sides of the motorway…

Another thing I liked more about driving on the French motorway than on the German equivalent, was there was hardly no bullies behind their high-powered wheels. I really was fed up with those German drivers who tailgated my car and pressurised me to move to a slower lane despite my speed was nearly 90mph while we were in Bavaria.

The French autoroute was all calm and civilised…

As we got closer to Calais, we started to see more cars with the British number plates. ‘What shall we do at Calais?’ We would have more than six hours to kill before boarding a train home…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Autoroute 26 Calais to Reims

The announcement urged us to get back to our vehicles and we scrambled to our seats and fastened the seat belts. I glanced at mum and said ‘This is it, mum! Are you ready?’ Mum adjusted her sunglasses rather nervously.

I wasn’t too worried about disembarking from Le Shuttle and joining A26 as I had done it before when I drove to Paris with Mr.B. From Calais, A26 was the only motorway and the direction was clearly signed, therefore, it would be very difficult to go a wrong way.

*Please note that all the photos taken from the car during our journey were shot by my mum with her iPod Touch.

Once we were away from the perimeter of Calais, the sceneries changed to a large expanse of the golden crop fields which were capped with the blue sky…

Our destination of the day 1 was Reims which was 274km (170miles) away from Calais. One thing I was totally forgetting about was Autoroute 26 was a toll road. In Britain, most of the motorways were free except some bridges and tunnels, therefore, I became nervous when I saw gates with paying stations which were blocking my way. As we approached, I could see a driver in front of me pressed a button on the machine, like he was exiting a car park. As he pulled out a ticket, a barrier lifted and off he went. ‘Ok mum, push the button and pull out a ticket like he did!’ Poor mum, who was petite, had to undo her seatbelt and hoist herself out of the window, and reached towards the machine. Viola! It worked and we were on our way again.

I can’t remember exactly how often we had to go through the ticketing barriers but there are more than a few of them along the route. The toll could be paid with either cash or credit card, and the methods of the payment each machine accepted were clearly visible from the distance. I was glad to have my mum sitting next to me because it would be very awkward if I were travelling alone as my car was right-hand drive and all the paying stations were designed for left-hand drive!

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

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