Bonjour mes Amis.
Already I am planning NOT to take another coach holiday, and definitely NOT to take a Ferry crossing.
I only had a short walk with my luggage to meet the bus in Bradford at 01:45 outside the Hilton. A 30-seater mini coach collected about a dozen of us, the last pickup being Barnsley and we all haD room to spread out. But then we stopped at Doncaster and were asked to transfer to a larger coach that was already full of folk from Newcastle. Result - no room to spread out, and only having an aisle seat I knew there was no chance I could get any sleep as I didn't have a window to rest my head against.
We set off and were scheduled to take a 45minute break at Grantham Services, but this was changed because the driver's tacho hours were awry so instead we stopped at Blyth Services. There was b*gg*r all open at Blyth at 3am, so I just bought a packet of crisps, and our halt was limited to 30minutes. We headed south seemingly not using any motorway until we hit the M25, Dartford Crossing, with a quick 'comfort stop' at the A20 Services for a driver change. Pity, coz our driver was the double of 'Brendon' from the TV programme 'Coach Trip'.
So to Dover, where we sat for 6hours. First of all we had to wait for more than a dozen coaches from all over Britain to gather so that all the luggage and people could be swapped around. I was on Coach 1 which had started at Newcastle and would end up at Lake Garda, and now I had to transfer to Coach 35 which had started at Blackpool and would end up at Annecy. A couple of the coaches were late arriving which meant that the whole 'interchange' could not take place until they did. Maybe get some breakfast; no, no, not a Dover, there was just a WH Smith and a Burger King. I joined an enormously long queue for BK and after more than ten minutes waiting for the single spotty 16year old Burger King to serve people I realised that BK don't actually do anything for vegetarians, so I saved myself 30minutes and joined the queue at WH Smith to buy yet another packet of crisps.
Look, there are 3 million people out of work in Britain, why aren't more students dragged off their Playstations and forced to serve fast food or take the cash for copies of the Daily Mail etc? This is a business model that is WRONG; there should be maximum staff when there is maximum demand.
Anyway, even when we had 'interchanged' we still couldn't go anyway because our boat was now the victim of something that had happened several hours earlier. "Yesterday 287 coaches, 6,000 lorries and 36,000 people embarked at Dover" said the sign. Well at looked as though there would be as many people right now on just our boat.
Eventually we are loaded, more than 2hours late. Having been warned that there would be a severe queue for any hot food on the boat, I hotfooted it from the Coach Deck to what turned out to be the Langham Restuarant. There was no queue and I saw something I liked, so fearing there wouldn't be another chance for hot food I sat down and took nine quids worth of Cheese and tomato Ravioli. Actually I'd finished my meal very soon after we had sailed through the gates of Dover. I was given a double table to myself, and I offered then the chance to use the spare place but they told me that "it wasn't allowed". So whilst people queued outside the door several singletons occupied double tables, and even some pairs occupied foursomes. Crazy.
As we hit France the winter night began, and I realised that I had spent the daylight hours either waiting at Dover or sailing to Calais. Phillip drove us to a Campanile Hotel just east of Rheims, pausing en route for us to discover how continental service stations outclass those of Britain. The Campanile Hotel is quite comfortable, and even at 21:30hours managed to give us an optional hot meal; Salmon with wild rice and two puddings; 14 Euros but well needed after 24hours on Crisps!.
There are some right Old F*rts on this bus, and I shall need to quickly discover the more entertaining folk or it's going to be a dull holiday. The 2 men behind me on the bus talked incessantly about previous trips; one guy seems to do about 4 Battlefield tours every year, WHY? Another guy seemed to have a weird interest in mass murders and the macabre, and I suspect he might be the next "Crossbow Cannibal". There are several women who are incapable of even getting up the steps onto the coach, and one has already lost her "medications". Already I wish a week with Juris without any hot food, ha ha.
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