Yesterday we went on a sort of works' outing to Calais for the day. It was an opportunity to pick up some cheap wine & cigs, browse some unfamiliar shops, and have a meal out and to see what its like going through the tunnel.
Having to get to work for 6:15am was a bit of a strain, but at least its only a few minutes' drive at that time of the day/week. Some colleagues were travelling from Guildford, Seaford or Raynes Park so an even earlier start for them. It took something like 1hr 20mins to get to the terminal at Folkestone and then only a very brief comfort break there we were straight onto the train and in half an hour we were in Calais.
Coming back was even quicker. It took about 90 minutes to get to Crawley from getting on the train, and we were on the train within half an hour of getting to the terminal. So its quicker to get from here to France than it is to get to Letchworth!
The train journey was amazingly smooth. When the train pulled off we did not even realise it was moving. It makes sense as the line is new, built very straight, and with welded rails, but even so it felt strange to have no sensation of movement for most of the duration of a 100mph trip.
First stop was the Cité Europe shopping centre, which is right next to the Eurotunnel terminal. We had a look around the smaller shops and then went into the large Carrefours to get some wine and chocolate and ended up with some other stuff too – baby clothes for Alfie, Dijon mustard, and a plate of snails. I also got a couple of CDs of French music and a double DVD of Mano Negra.
After we all loaded our crates onto the coach we went into town, getting there at just before one so just in time for lunch and in time for most of the shops in town to be closed. Everyone else headed for the main shopping streets in Calais Sud but Jayne and I popped over the canal to Calais Nord.
Its a bit less crowded there, and understandably so, but we are quite familiar with the Place d'Armes, and had a spot of lunch there and picked up some cigarettes before rejoining everyone else for the surprisingly short journey home.
The kids were happy to see the boxes of French sweets we brought back, but less pleased to hear that a condition of having them was to eat the snails. Chrystal had told us that she had eaten snails before and we were calling her bluff. It turns out she had eaten snail rice, whatever that is, and didn't fancy eating them 'in their houses' as she put it. She did manage one, and didn't enjoy it, but Chas polished off the other eleven without any trouble.
Maybe it was the early start, being in a coach for half the day, or the half-bottle of Côtes du Rhône with lunch, but I had a bit of a headache. And watching Charlie eating the garlic-laden snails didn't make me feel much better, so I thought I would have a nap for an hour or so while listening to my new CDs. I ended up sleeping right through to this morning, missing Match of the Day and all 5 of West Ham's goals.
It was a good day out though. I know Calais is considered to be a bit of a dump, and it is located in a geographically dull area, not very pretty, seemingly dedicated to catering for British day-trippers, and not very French, but I quite like the place. Being able to go for only fifteen quid for the pair of us was a bargain, and the tunnel meant that we had plenty of time in town without being away all day.