Thursday 30th January 2020.
We set off on our return journey in the pitch dark and heavy rain, the first 45 miles of the journey is on country roads and through villages so that was a challenge. Then for the whole of the rest of the journey approx 30. miles it is dual carriageway or motorway so the journey is swift but still challenging in the rain and road spray. Thankfully the French motorways weren’t busy.
We had one bizarre incident on the journey back. just south of Tours there is a Tollpay station with about 15 booths, as we have a device in the car that automatically opens the barrier and charges us later I headed for an empty one of these which was the second from the right. The device beeped and I started forward when suddenly a man clad in black body armour wielding an automatic rifle lept out in front of us and forced us to stop. He didn’t communicate just pointed the gun, after a minute or two he stepped back about 10 paces and I assumed it was OK to go but he soon made it clear I couldn’t . Now if I was “Jack Reacher” (read the books) I would have immediately known what kind of gun it was, what it fired, the velocity of the bullets and how long it would take to leap out of the car and disarm the man, but as I’m not I sat still with my hands in clear view on top of the steering wheel. Shortly afterwards two police cars with blacked out windows came through the barrier and took up place one in front of two trucks in front of us and one behind, they then took off in convoy. Our armed gendarme then walked backwards about 10m keeping the gun trained on us, I again assumed wrongly it was OK to move, but the wave of the gun taught me otherwise. At this moment a third police car came through the barrier and swerved at an angle between us and the armed policeman, 30 seconds later it screamed off and our armed man had disappeared!
I then assumed it was OK to go, a few minutes later I caught up with the convoy which was travelling below the speed limit and overtook it, only to find a moment or two later that the third car shot past us swerved across the lanes and blocked a slip road onto the motorway with two armed men leaping out of the car, this happened 3 times before we got to Tours when they must have driven off the motorway. Who knows what was going on, I’m sure we will never find out, at least the adrenaline kept me going for a while.
When we reached the port at Caen the computer software at the check in booth wasn’t working so we had to go in the terminal, after checking in and getting our cabin keys we decided as there was an hour before sailing we would have a coffee in the cafe. As we sat there a young woman approached and introduced herself as a journalist from a local newspaper and asked if she could interview us for her paper about how our travels would be affected by BREXIT. We explained our main concerns especially the uncertainty of travelling with Layla and length of time we could spend in Europe, she took our names ( including Layla) and took our photo. Will we be in the paper, who knows? All Michelle was concerned about was that she hadn’t brushed her hair before the photo!
The ferry crossing was choppy with lots of rocking and rolling but at least the UK part of the journey was dry and we were home by 1am.