Monday 10th - Tuesday 11th August 2020
Well, that day didn't end where we expected!
We woke up on Monday morning with a clear plan to track west(ish) exploring several sites recommended by our YouTube Community. From there the "plan" (it was a very loose plan) was to head north(ish) before returning to the UK at the end of the month. But we woke to news, alerts, messages and even phone calls from family and friends warning that France was about to be LOCKED DOWN. As a family we were relatively comfortable that we were no higher at risk in France as we would be in the UK. We had no problems with social distancing, mask wearing or hand hygiene, but we were concerned that if new Quarantine rules were imposed, the boys would miss the start of the new school year.
So, we evolved our plan - again. Rather than heading west, we would start to drive north back towards Calais. In 2015 we had fallen in love with a family owned Chateau and campsite. Just over 3 hours north of Camping Ardèche, Chateau Le Grange Fort would be a lovely stop off along the route. So we set off.
Driving north Steve and I were still discussing options. What about heading to The Netherlands, and taking the ferry home? What about exploring north in to Scandinavia? If we head to a "low risk country", and on our last day drive directly back to EuroTunnel without stopping, would we still need to quarantine when we arrive? But as we talked through all our options, it became clear that at some point, all countries could be deemed high risk, and 2 weeks quarantine would seriously impact the boy's return to school.
The British Government seemed to be making announcements on Wednesday or Thursday afternoons to be implemented in the early hours of Saturday morning. Would it be the same for France? Or would any new announcements be similar to Spain? Announced and implemented with immediate effect? As we wound our way north we became resigned to the realisation that this was no longer the mid-point of our trip, and infact this was the last few days. Although we were pretty sure we had enough time for one more stop, as we approached the pull off junction for Le Grange Fort we didn't stop. I picked up my laptop logged on to our EuroTunnel account and brought our crossing forwards.
I would love to say that the journey north was uneventful, and mostly it was until we hit Paris. Approaching from the South, we have only ever turned right and travelled easterly around the périphérique (outer ringroad). But Google Maps flashed up with a "YOU CAN SAVE 5 MINS BY CHANGING ROUTES" message. We had been driving for 6 hours at this point and blindly followed the newly suggested route. If you only take 1 thing from following our adventures, please let it be this. NEVER HEAD AROUND THE WEST SIDE OF THE PERIPHERIQUE IN ANYTHING TALLER THAN A CAR. The ring road is partial tunnel, and by partial, I mean several huge chunks. The height limit is 2m and there is no clear, obvious route above ground. Our 5 minute saving cost us over 90 minutes in additional driving time. AND the worst thing about this debacle; at some point in the past we had both known this! Urgh
After 10 hours driving, mainly on toll roads we pulled up in the dark at a quiet, unmarked aire just south of Calais and went to sleep. If you would like a hack for saving money at tolls - click the link below and watch our latest adventure.
Chateau Le Grange Fort: https://www.lagrangefort.eu/?lang=en
What3Words link: https://w3w.co/grained.icicle.length
Aire at Nouvion, Somme, Hauts-de-France, France, 80860
What3Words link: https://w3w.co/competitive.flexes.motivational
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