back on the map

Jets can do it in three hours.

Satellites in just over two minutes.

But for us in the Green Dragon, it took almost a week to make the 2000 kilometre trip from Ballater, Scotland to La Chabanne, France.

With Storm Abigail set to unleash a bout of raw flatulence upon the Scottish Highlands the time seemed right to slip away from our summer residence and push south, while the roads still remained open.

So began the first of five travelling days, thirty eight hours in the car -and chapters 1 -12 of the fourth Harry Potter audio book- which, along with the intermittent voice of Stephen Fry, would take us through to a small mountain settlement in France. Ending the first leg of our journey towards southern Spain.

That we arrived at all was credit to my wife’s knowledge of dead reckoning and map reading:

Following that evening’s Channel crossing, the trip time to our fourth night’s accommodation was a mere three hours away.

Spellbound by Harry’s latest Hogwartian adventure, it wasn’t until we were well onto the continent that Rachel noticed the trip time on our phone’s G.P.S., remained stuck on 2hrs 48mins  -just south of the ferry terminal.

Beneath the dim fluorescence of a roadside layby, the previously considered redundant map of Great Britain (which happened to include a morsel of French landscape), was poured over.

“Is this the D7?” Rachel asked.

I shot a glance over at Camilla; our aptly named phone given to the fact that she sleeps next to us at night.

“According to Camilla” I began, “we’re just 2 clicks south of Calais…”

Turning back, an emerging awareness soon became apparent in that: a) there was no sign of ferries anywhere, and b) though our car struggles to reach the national speed limit, it has a proven track record of more than 2 km / hr.

Adding to this was that tonight’s hotel closed at 10pm – leaving us with just under an hour to find it.

More worryingly however was the fact that we’d been let down by the electronic mistress we’ve come to trust – Camilla was now useless to us, which is a shame really, more so because she doesn’t blast morning breath into our waking nostrils.

But there’s a lot to be said about human spirit, or moreover, my wife’s spirit. Though I’d resigned myself to a sleepless night in some inner city carpark; counselling the kids on the finer points of sleeping upright during sub-zero temperatures whilst using a monopoly board for a pillow, Rachel was scouring the British map of France, formulating a plan…

It was well after 11pm when we finally pulled up to the hotel gates in Amiens. A solitary sign explained fermature.

We’d left the British Midlands sixteen hours earlier and pulled a massive roadie, only to miss out on bed by an hour.

I turned to the kids and handed them the monopoly board to share, followed by a shrug to say: sorry, we tried.

But turning back my eye caught sight of something that looked like a small vending machine.

At the very least it might offer some mood enhancing bars of chocolate or late night snacks?

Yet on closer it revealed a map of the hotel. There was no junk in this machine. Just keys for late entry. We were in!

Getting horizontal, it seemed, was back on the map.