Blogging from Normady. Day 1 - The only way to travel

280 mile road trip by night 
Big ferry. Still with no indoor smoking accommodation 
89 year old man who hates the smoking ban. (There's one everywhere you go these days) 

We set out on the journey at 11pm Saturday evening after spending most of the day in bed. By the time we get to France our body clocks are going to be all over the place. Ah well, at least there's beer. I'm not a big fan of driving by night but at least the pop up headlights on the Probe added a little comedy value. Mostly it was boring. Motorways and pee breaks at service stations.

There was two things I needed to arrange before the trip. One was breakdown recovery which I forgot to do. I've never really needed breakdown in the past. I only tend to travel local for the most part, and if it's a breakdown that I can't repair with the extensive tool kit in my boot, Mrs Bucko can always come and tow me home.

The second was a spare wheel. When I bought the car there wasn't one in the boot. I went to the local scrappy last week and picked up one of those space saver ones. When I got it home it didn't fit. I was supposed to go back this Saturday to replace it but again, I forgot. Driving 280 miles without a spare is really not a wise thing to do.

Fortunately we made it to the ferry without incident. I was actually quite proud at how well the Probe performed. It looks like I might have actually bought a good one this time. If we break down on the way back I can always call my mate who has a recovery company and he will make me pay through the nose for a lift home on the back of a flat bed.

That's no good going down though, a breakdown could have ruined the holiday and Mrs Bucko would have been quite upset. At least she saw the funny side when I lost my passport.

We're doing the channel crossing on a Brittany Ferry called the Mont St Michelle. It seems to be quite a bit bigger than the PandO that takes us to Belgium for the bacci cruise but still it doesn't accommodate smokers inside. The Belgium ship has more than enough space, this one could fit the town of Stony Stratford in a smoking room.

Having said that, the outside decks put the Pride of Brugges to shame. (1)
The cabins have a bit of comedy value. Those who have been on the ferry to Brugges will remember the cabins with the smoking shower room and the single bunk beds. We went into our cabin on this ferry and it was exactly the same except no beds, just a couch.


I thought hang on a minute, I booked a room with bunk beds. We can't share a couch to sleep on. Of course the couch was a fold out bed but it was still only a single. After much head scratching I spotted a small lever in the ceiling which released the top bunk out of the roof. Balmy!


Travelling by boat is far better then flying. Going by plane wastes an entire day and includes about four hours of stark terror as you sit at 30,000 feet in a thing that really has no business getting off the ground.


The trip to Normandy from start to finish is only four hours longer for us than it takes to fly to Greece, and when flying abroad you can't crash out on your bunk or sit at a bar supping a pint. The highlight of your day is having a giggle at the gaggle of security morons. I'd go everywhere by boat if I could.

Earlier I was chatting to an old man who was sitting out here having a fag. Apparently he's spending a couple of weeks with relatives in France while he has a kitchen extension done. He doesn't need the kitchen extension, he lives on his own and doesn't need the extra space. Apparently his kids talked him into it. There may be a bit of inheritance kerching going on there or that could just be my cynical side. 

The conversation turned to the war on smokers, as it invariably does when you are outside with the other exiles. He asked me how old he was. Not wishing to offend, as I'm terrible at guessing ages I said 70. (I would really have guessed at 75 to 80). He told me he is actually 89 and has been a smoker all his adult life. 

He said that all the people he knew from school are long passed and they never smoked. He also went on to tell me a story about an 'old boy' he once knew who passed away two days before his hundredth birthday. He was a pipe smoke all his life. I never got the old chaps name in the end but I did get his views on tobacco control, health and smoking being a cause of cancer: 

"Bollocks". 

Couldn't put it better myself. 

I can't say what will get the old fellah in the end but it's more likely being exposed to the elements on the wet and windy deck of a ship than it is smoking. And it is wet and windy. Holidays are supposed to be about the sun but the outlook for Normandy over the next week is pants. 

Oh well, we didn't come on the one for the sun, we came for the education. I'm off to find something hideously expensive to eat. 

More later. Bye for now.

*Four hours later*

We've arrived. And guess what, we got hopelessly lost the minute we touched dry land. I'm sure Googles directions were spot on but for some reason all the road signs here are in a foreign language. It doesn't help when you are concentrating on driving on the wrong side of the road either.

Asking directions was a bit of a chore. Most of the folk over here only speak a bit of broken English. The Greeks speak such good English, so often that they couldn't be bothered listening to me try out my rudimentary, BBC tapes, Greek on them. They just reverted to English as soon as I said hello.

I suppose I could have learned a few French phrases before coming here but I hate that language. They all sound like they are struggling to talk through a gob full of phlegm.


We're here now and that's the main thing. Probably just have an overpriced meal and a few scoops before going to bed.


Tomorrow the adventure begins.

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