Saturday 28th July, 2007 On the saturday, we drove north to Pas de Calais. We were going to overnight in a place called Marquise, near Boulogne. Staying in a place called hôtel des deux caps.
First we had the drive. Though it was one of the shorter legs, it was probably the most problematic as we had to go past Paris. Now, don't get me wrong, I like Paris - but driving anywhere near it is a nightmare. There isn't a traffic issue until you get into town itself, it's a road issue - it's not easy to navigate. There were no obvious signs saying 'The North' or similar. There is no ring road or through road (on the motorways). Instead, there are lots of bits of road that and the route involves several changes of road (with the French system of giving roads several identifying numbers, it got confusing).
Somehow, we ended up heading west and going past Versailles. Our only serious error in the whole trip.
We decided to go around Paris completely rather than to try and find out where we should have gone, and turned off the N12 at a place called Mére, before heading cross country, crossing the Seine at Meulan and eventually finding the A16.
Going wrong is not a big deal on a journey - it's realising that you're wrong and fixing the problem that matters.
The hotel wasn't difficult to find. The only problem with it was that it's on a little one way street, and a church was next door. A wedding was taking place, and so we could not park easily. We parked in a not-good place long enough to get the bags out of the car, and I did a lap or two as the wedding was finishing - I grabbed one of the resulting clear spaces.
The room was a model of compact living, very small - but perfectly adequate. The bathroom was essentially built into a walk-in closet. It would suffice for us, however.
In the late afternoon, early evening, we drove to the beach at Cap Griz Nez. The tide was out, and so we had a nice expanse of flat sand to walk on. There were a few rocks about with shellfish attached and horses galloping up and down, all very nice.
We had taken rooms above a bar/restaurant, and so in the evening we ate 'in house'. It was nice stuff. It hit the spot well - although the place had a fault in common with several other restaurants we'd been in of putting beers on the menu which weren't available - this happened several times on our trip.
The next day, all we had to do was go home. We checked out of the hotel and drove past Cité Europe to get some fuel - the place itself was closed except for the cafés and amusement section. Then to the port, and onto the ferry. We used speedferries again.
Unfortunately we had to drive around inside the ferry some way, and were as far from the exit as it's possible to get (minus one car) - and so we'd have a little bit of a wait getting off. Nevertheless, total crossing time, including unloading, was still faster than the traditional Dover-Calais routes.
It was a little bouncy on the return, but nothing at all serious - some folks were making a big meal out of it. The best place was on the deck of the speed-cat, where it was nice and windy. I pulled out the GPS which I'd kept in the bag during my trip, and saw that we were doing 35 knots. None too shabby.
I kept the GPS (a Garmin GPS 60) with me in order that when taking a photo in a place unlikely to be easily found later on Google Earth, I'd know where it was for geotagging purposes, this would allow me to use Picasa and Google Earth to place all the photos from the trip on the surface of the Earth, and hence give a map in flickr. Note that if tagging prior to upload with flickr (which I'd recommend, as the tag is then in your local copy of the picture), you have to tell flickr to respect existing geotags, this is not enabled by default.
You can browse all the photos from this trip using the map, zoom in for more detail. Click on the circles for popups showing the photos taken in that location. Be aware that there may be too many photos to show on one page - at the top left you'll be able to flick between pages.