I’m lying in a single bed in a hotel in Reims. I have a small boy in the bed next to me, and an 8-year-old in the pull out bed at my feet. This is the reality of having more than 2 children; every time your family stays in a hotel, you end up sleeping separately from your DH.
I had a shocking night’s sleep last night as my head was whirring with things I had to do before we left this morning. I tossed and turned all night, and finally got out of bed around 4am. I thought I’d got everything, but we weren’t 10 minutes down the road before I could reel off a handful of things I’d left behind.
DH and I had already had a couple of ‘discussions’ about packing, and who had been meant to do what before we even got the kids out of bed, so I wasn’t in the best mood when I looked at the fuel gauge while we were still on the driveway and realised that finding a petrol station was going to be a priority for us.
I judged the first one we passed as too expensive, and the second one was closed. I knew there was one just off the A40 but wasn’t 100% sure where, and before we knew it, we were driving around a very congested M25 with the fuel light on.
DH managed to located a nearby petrol station on his iPhone, and it directed us to West Drayton. This wasted 20 minutes of our buffer. Obviously, I wasn’t already stressed enough, so when I took a wrong turn on the way back to the M25 and ended up having to drive through Heathrow to recover from the mistake, I very nearly ended up just turning around and going home.
But I didn’t, the M25 behaved and we got to the Chunnel in time to catch our train. In fact, we were able to pop into duty-free and pick up a few bits and pieces, then loaded back into the car in order to wave our passports at the French Border guards.
This is the third time we’ve taken the car through Eurotunnel, and although we were singled out for our car to be searched last time, we’ve never had a passport problem, despite the fact I don’t yet have an English PP, and travel on my NZ one. I have an Indefinite Leave Visa, but when my PP ran out a couple of years ago, I couldn’t be bothered paying the money to have the visa reprinted on my new PP, so just carry the two. When I re-enter the UK, and they check my documents, I just hand them both passports, there is never a problem.
Except today, the French guy went through my current PP obviously looking for my re-entry visa. He then asked why I didn’t have a visa, so I showed him my old one, but he wasn’t happy and we ended up having to sit around in a side bay while they investigated. Finally, we got the passports back, and by this time we were a bit late. Then I stupidly got in the wrong line, and had to do a sneaky cut through so I didn’t have to drive under a 1.85 pole in a car 2.05m tall.
Basically, we missed our scheduled time, but were just slotted on the next one, without a murmur.
Once we got to Calais, things ran more smoothly. We did stop at an Aire where the toilets were too filthy to be usable, and then got a bit lost when our newly update Sat-Nav knew nothing about a brand-new road on the outskirts of Reims.
But these issues were minimal compared to the English half of the morning, and we coped.
The hotel parking was a bit tricky; the only car park without a height restriction was too far a walk away for lots of bags and children, so we parked in a 15 min bay outside. The kids and I grabbed the bags and dragged them into the hotel lobby, while DH removed the roof box, folded the seats down and managed to squeeze the car into hotel parking.
After a short chill-out time, we took the kids to see the The Cathedral. They weren’t terribly enthusiastic about the proposition but actually really enjoyed it. We are not church goers and this showed in their more-lively-than normal behavior. There was a little bit more noise than should be heard in a solemn old church, and there was some running and soft shoe shuffling, but on the whole they were good. I especially liked it when DD3 asked for a euro’ for a candle.’ When I asked her who she was going to light it for, she said she didn’t want to light one, she just wanted to blow one out!
Notre-Dame de Reims is an amazing building, and is definitely worth a look around if you are in the area, even with small children in tow.
As we exited, a small train arrived outside the Cathedral, and the kids begged to go on it. We capitulated and endured a quite interesting to adults, but not so much to children, half hour commentary on various aspects of the city.
It was time for tea after that, and we wandered into The Place Drouet d’Erlon where we found a restaurant that served large Mojitos alongside the food.