A Life in the Slow Lane

Led by the Nose

The wind continued blowing a hooley at our aire with the result that, all night long, Basil was rockin and rollin better than Chuck Berry in his prime.

We set off as early as possible to try to get 200 or more miles under our belt in order to reach the Mediterranean in 3 days. Initially we travelled parallel with the coast and eventually struck out due south through the soulless landscape of Northern France.

In the olden days, when travelling long distances, I would sit down, surrounded by maps, and plot a route simply on the basis of what looked the most direct. It wasn’t really possible to take into account weight of traffic or the average speed achieved on a particular road. Today, however, I simply plugged “Arles” into SatNav, our immediate destination on the Mediterranean, told SatNav to avoid tolls and plot the fastest route, and then let SatNav do the rest. The result this morning was that before we knew it Basil and his electronic chum had decided to take us through the centre of Paris!

This might not have been as stupid as it seems – it being a Saturday – were it not for Operation Escargot. We reached the centre of Paris smoothly and quickly but then we hit the dreaded Peripherique, the ring road around the central section of the French capital. The last time I was on this road, twenty years ago, it was rush hour and it did a good impression of a massive circular car park. Today the traffic was slow, but not at a complete standstill. After about half and hour the reason became clear, as we all compacted into two of the four available lanes, to overtake what looked like an abnormally large load, escorted by dozens of police. In fact it was hundreds of lorries, occupying the outside two lanes of the road and moving at a snail’s pace. All we could gather from the various banners hanging from the trucks, was that it seemed to be part of the ongoing Maillot Jaune protests and it had been aptly named Operation Snail! Our equanimity through this event was not helped by the fact that Basil was breathing fumes as we sat in the resulting jam. After we cleared this unexpected blockage our journey through Paris speeded up considerably and we managed to find fuel just in time.

Operation Snail
Operation Snail

The other notable site in Paris was the sea of tents lining the underpasses and any other available space at some of the junctions around the Peripherique. They seemed to be mass informal accommodation for immigrants. These unfortunate people then lined the roads leading onto the Peripherique begging in large numbers. We saw literally hundreds of tents. I commented to Sarah that Paris clearly had a bigger problem of homelessness than London. She replied, quite correctly, that it is probably because the English Channel prevents most who want to live in Britain from getting there.

A very few of the tents
There is apparently a French version of Brexit!

All in all it has been a long day. 220 miles in over seven hours, including stops. Our final resting place is a lovely aire (48.034833, 2.791817) in the village of Paucourt. It’s set next to the local village church, with what Sarah calls it’s witches hat roof and adjacent to a huge green area, on which the dogs have had a good run after being cooped up in Basil all day. I suspect tomorrow will be much the same, although with luck warmer as we move into the southern half of France. 

Basil at Paucourt