The 24 Hour Clock of Cheese

In the restaurant, the couple from the Midlands, sitting alongside us, with the narrow width of a skinny French waiter between us, were a bit upset because the Scottish couple sat next to them wanted to talk. It was the usual holiday thing of “And have you been abroad before?”, “Where are you going?”, the latter had Mirinda puzzled as the boat doesn’t exactly have that many stops. One, to be exact. I’m not convinced that the couple from the Midlands had ever been away before. It’s an ease-the-strain-of-sitting-so-close-to-strangers strategy that many people use when aboard very slow boats across the English Channel.

For that is where we are. Adrift on the Bretagne, having eaten at Les Abers, ala carte restaurant (I always think ‘ala carte’ sounds so posh but it just means off the menu rather than out of the communal trough), we are sat next to a window sipping our evening drinks – coffee and camomile tea…in separate cups. On Saturday, Mirinda decided it would be a fantastic idea to, rather than go all the way to Bristol, go all the way to Brittany.

Saturday was a blur of booking, phoning and rearranging but we managed it. The ferry, the car, the hotels. All done by Sunday. Monday the dogs went to the kennel and we hopped aboard a taxi to Portsmouth and the boat to Brittany.

The trip through customs and onto the ferry was amazingly simple this time around. We hardly noticed any of it. I am a bit puzzled by the number of old, infirm or just plain broken people who seem to think they should go first. Effectively they hold everyone else up by being incredibly slow. Why don’t they wait and go last? Or why don’t they get an escort and go early? Of course, I know. It’s because they don’t want to get left behind. Still…it annoys me. I’m not allowed to talk about it when Mirinda’s around as she thinks they all have super hearing.

This is the first time we’ve been on the Monday night ferry and I have to say, it is pretty high on the civilised list. OK, downstairs is still packed with the seething masses, tucking into seeping fish and chips and sitting up all night in uncomfortable chairs because they can’t afford a cabin, but…on level 7, where the ala carte restaurant lives, which is normally just as heaving, it is quite sedate. They even have a cheese plate instead of (or as well as) dessert. We are sitting listening to a kid playing the piano. Very nice.

We went for a wander around the deck as Britain drifted by either side of us. The sun was setting and the sky was softly orange tinted. Although windy, it wasn’t cold. Back inside, in the cabaret area of the boat, the people were sitting around with an air of resigned expectation; they know what they’re going to see will be crap, they just don’t know what it is yet.

WiFi is £4 an hour aboard this ferry, or so the inquisitive American lady told us. She doesn’t normally use technology but had to have a laptop in order to go to France. I’m not sure why. She did know the word dongle and assumed I had one. I think there’s quite a few people who have no idea that a computer can be used when it isn’t connected to the Internet.

Brittany Ferries the 'Bretagne' at night

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