The day before the beginning

Well, things looked a bit bleak at the Hotel Chateaubriand. OK, we turned up at about 9am but we didn’t expect the room to be ready. We wondered whether they could look after our luggage while we went off and wiled away the hours before 3pm which is when the room is supposed to be ready. The room wasn’t ready at 3pm and we sat in the comfortable lounge, waiting.

The quite pleasant lobby in the Hotel Chateaubriand

It was a bit difficult staying awake. The cabin on the ferry had been excellent (the porthole makes a huge difference) but the sleep was never very deep, punctuated as it was by strange sounds and the rise and fall of swell-y waves. Actually, the entire night, there seemed to be people walking up and down the steps which shared a common wall with our cabin and the entire day, we still felt the sway of the English Channel beneath our feet.

So, sitting in the lounge of the Hotel Chateaubriand, it was hard to stay awake. In fact, I’m pretty sure I dozed off a few times. We had already wandered around St Malo, had breakfast at the Unicorn (as usual), had a pretty awful lunch (not as usual), indulged in a hot chocolate and caramel drink and generally wasted time before we could have a little afternoon nap.

What made it worse was the fact that it was raining. One of those persistently light and regular rains that make sure you are damp without really being noticeably wet.

And I don’t know why the room wasn’t ready. The girl at reception said she didn’t know why. Naturally Mirinda blamed me. It was all very odd.

The best thing about our French holidays is that they don’t really start until the second day because we don’t think the day of travelling should be included in the itinerary. And we’ve extended this to include the first day, which we now spend in St Malo as a matter of course. This, of course, means that our holiday actually starts on the third day. However, this gets a bit confusing if the hotel doesn’t let us into our room so we can have an afternoon nap in comfort.

The beauty of familiarity is that you start to notice little differences. For instance, the Unicorn has been redecorated and is now all a bit pink and there seems to have been an influx of chocolate shops.

Strange chocolate bug creation

Still, the important things remain the same. The long, wet walk out to the lighthouse, the stroll around the rain lashed ramparts, the squelch across the low tide beach to the National Fortress…it’s lovely to know that some things never change.

The rather grim walk out to the lighthouse

You have to applaud the family that, against all odds and possibility of moaning and groaning, refused to give up trying to fly their kite on the beach. Dad would rush over, grab the kite and hold it high while eldest son wrestled with the controls. The kite would then take off like a propelled thing, the smaller kids running around like ants (we were watching from the ramparts and, to be fair, everything looked like ants). It could have been a lovely, sunny, beach-perfect day…except it seriously wasn’t.

And it's up, up and away...for a little bit

For lunch, Mirinda quite fancied fish and chips. I reminded her that we were in France and that a meal of fish and chips was something that is firmly entrenched in Britain (or former British colonies) rather than the home of fine dining. That was when we discovered that there was a beach-side place that served chips (frites) with everything. Well, everything except for fish.

There was the obvious mussels with chips, of course but there was also sausage and chips, egg, ham and chips, just chips…there was a lot of possible options except for fish…and Spam, I should add. This strikes me as a little odd for a couple of reasons. Firstly, a lot of Brits come here and the place sells chips anyway and, secondly, St Malo is a fishing port. I can understand the fact that they don’t do chips and Spam.

Still, we thought it novel that they did do chips with chicken nuggets. We’ve heard a lot about chicken nuggets but not really had any (I am ignoring the fact that I had some a number of years ago from Burger King when I was drunk because I really don’t remember them very well) so Mirinda thought it would make an interesting experience.

I really don’t know how people can eat them sober. They are pretty awful. I’m not even sure they were chicken. The chips were fine.

Speaking of new things (as I was a while ago), the ferry terminal at Portsmouth has undergone a complete change. While the building remains in the same place, it’s not actually the same building. It’s all very swish and clean and empty now.

The new Portsmouth ferry terminal from the, previously non-existent, second floor

I should add that we’re travelling at a non-busy time so the fact that there were a few of us on the ferry is not that surprising.

It looks a lot better than it used to and there’s now an upstairs where you can settle back and enjoy a Costas coffee. Except for the fact that Costas service is absolute crap and the franchise at the Portsmouth International ferry terminal is no exception. Actually it surpasses all other Costas I’ve ever been to. It was seriously awful.

Fortunately we didn’t have long before we could board the ferry. A lovely, hassle free trip through security and we were on the bus headed for the boat. About 15 minutes later, I’d found our room and dumped the luggage. This entire procedure took less time than it did for the Portsmouth franchise of Costas to make me a hot chocolate and a hazelnut latte.

We were travelling on the Bretagne (151m x 26m x 24,534 tonnes) and we had a lovely sit down meal at the ala carte/buffet restaurant, Les Abers. I discovered that Mirinda does not like my second favourite cheese, Liverot. We also discovered that this is a fantastic time to travel on the ferry. While the capacity is 2,056, I reckon there was about 50 of us on it.

And there’s definitely something to be said for a cabin with a porthole although I do wonder why it is deemed imperative to close the shutter during the night. I can understand the light pollution thing when the occupant is awake and typing or reading or playing with a strange guitar tuning app on their iPhone but at night, when the occupant is asleep…well, really. Because of this, I didn’t close our shutter. All night.

Still tied up at Portsmouth

We managed to get into the room by 4pm and Mirinda took about three and a half minutes to fall asleep.

This entry was posted in Dordogne 2012, Gary's Posts. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to The day before the beginning

  1. mum cook says:

    Well that was an interesting day and night.
    love mum

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