Missed opportunity

I was awake for most of the night convinced I’d miss the alarm on my phone going off. It was set for 6am so I could wake Bob and Claire but Mirinda didn’t want to wake until 6:40. I needed coffee and breakfast. Eventually it went off but, as I was awake anyway, it never went off. And didn’t wake Mirinda up. As it turned out, we could have remained in the hotel for a few hours longer.

I went down to breakfast (Bob and Claire were already awake) at 6. It was very lonely but the coffee was good and hot and fresh. The baguettes crunchy and the ham wrapped in clingwrap. The eggs were actually pre-boiled. I had a lovely breakfast and three coffees – the cups were quite small. As I left the guy on reception took my room number. Back in the room, I realised breakfast started at 6:30. Excellent.

We all met in reception at 7 and made the long journey across the road to the terminal – it was too early to call a cab. We were booked in and sat grasping our boarding cards by 7:05. The ferry was delayed! Something to do with the gangplank. We sat and watched a rather demented Labrador pester his owners into kicking about a tough, stuffed rat.

The Barfleur, for this is the name of the ferry, was supposed to sail at 8am but didn’t actually get out of the dock until 9:45!

As we sat, alone in the lounge of reclining chairs, Bob placed his coat on a small table and went in search of food. An excitable member of the Barfleur crew spotted the coat and went into a string of concerned French. Obviously having picked up a lot of French without realising it, Claire simply said “That is my husband” and sorted it out. It needs to be stressed that this crew member never returned after making his fuss.

I thought the crossing would be pretty rough, given the weather last night, but it was actually fine. The Stockwells went to the cinema and saw The Pursuit of Happy-ness. All was well until we arrived in Portsmouth harbour. We were put into the seagoing holding pattern and waited. There were no announcements. We didn’t know why. We just sat and waited. Eventually we were told that there was a naval vessel holding things up.

Portsmouth Harbour from the Barfluer ferry

The gangplank which made us late, was obviously still having problems, so we all trundled down a very basic version – the sort of thing you see on old Russian cruise liners but without the luxury. We were very late arriving but the car hire company were very good. They picked us up and drove us to their depot then handed Bob a black, bad-ass, tinted window, people carrier. It reminded me of a rap star car!

Sadly the first roundabout we entered had an idiot in it who tried to run us into the middle with his stupid driving. And all those wrong way roundabouts in France with not one incident.

The Sad Story of the Missed Opportunity
Alas. When in Sees, I saw a bottle of Pommeau on display and didn’t buy it. I am hitting myself about the head as I sit on the ferry home, realising I now have none of that delicious liquor.

I don’t know what I was thinking. Perhaps I assumed an offy would be just down the road from the château or I would be smart enough to look at the alcohol section in the marche in Tours when I bought tea bags. I don’t know. What I do know is that I’m stupid.

My last opportunity was the duty free shop on the ferry. Yeah, right. They had everything but Pommeau! We visited one of the best wine regions of the best wine producing country in the world and managed to come away with one bottle of white in our luggage. But Pommeau? IDIOT!

There is no happy ever after to this story…but the moral is, obviously, if you see it, buy it, no matter what day of your holiday it is! Things were made a lot better by Bob’s little present on the ferry. A lovely bottle of quarter-cask Laphroaig, the best damned single malt whisky in the world.

This has nothing to do with the holiday but is well worth relating. As we shivered in France, the south of England was experiencing its coldest spell in decades (no-one has actually said how many but it’s at least one because we’ve not known it so cold) and from the sounds of it, we had it quite mild!

Naturally, when we left, we turned everything off. The heating, the hot water, the electric, etc. Boy, was that a mistake! When we opened the front door the house was actually colder than outside which was something like -5. We quickly put the heaters and water on. Bob and Claire, not silly by any means, left very quickly for the Bush Hotel.

Originally we had planned to all meet for dinner but by the appointed hour, the house was still not warm enough so Mirinda and I huddled around the wood burning fire in the lounge with the door securely shut against the rest of the house. We suggested Bob and Claire come back after dinner for a nightcap as they were off for the Isle of Man the next morning.

The water in the pipe leading to the boiler had frozen so there was no hot water for a LONG time. The waste pipe for the kitchen sink had frozen so the sink wouldn’t empty. A bottle of olive oil had frozen in the kitchen. I have discovered that this usually happens at around -6.

Oddly the freezer had decided to defrost itself, making it warmer inside than out. I’m not sure if this is because it couldn’t compete with the ambient temperature. The sheets on the bed felt like they had been made of starch. It occurred to me that this is what cave living must be like.

Bob and Claire, after dinner, popped their heads into the house then quickly ran off again, having said good night.

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