I drove down from Bristol to France with the girls over a Friday and Saturday. The husband needed to be in Wales for work at the start of the following week so a girls-only road trip was the go.
Naturally it was the day before that I finally thought about the sat nav. I mean, I’d had a lot on my mind, in my hands and generally way too much happening. The girls left school at February half term and I took fifteen children home to our place for a farewell party – on the bus. I didn’t lose anyone, the noise levels were bearable and, remarkably, few tears were shed.
Then half term – I was pretty organised for the move and had images of relaxed days over coffee with friends while the children played. Ha ha. I finally forced myself out of the house before me and the girls and endless moving chores drove each other mental. We visited the museum and the aquarium and I focussed on being there, with my girls, move be damned.
My hard work paid off and packing and moving days after half term went incredibly smoothly. By then the girls were safely deposited with my parents an hour away, and before we knew it the house was empty except for a lot of dust. It was a huge relief when I could finally join the girls and put my feet up for a cuppa with the folks – even if I did have to skip back to the house to meet the cleaners and attack that dust.
Thursday we arrived, a couple of hours closer to the Channel Tunnel, at my mother-in-law’s, and I raised the issue of the sat nav. We use a very good App. Or at least, the husband does. My usually-small life takes me from one side of town to the other, for which I am happy with Google Maps. He’d found the App (Co-Pilot, if you’re interested), installed it and mastered it. So for any long trips, like down France, I left him to program the route and just followed the instructions when it was my turn to drive. I’m a very independent person, but family is for a reason. It’s just like a team at work – not everyone needs to have all the knowledge, right? And the App was a bit confusing, even he said so, so I was happy for him to sort it.
Now – panic – I needed to use it. It’s utterly superior traffic information and lane instructions were going to be essential for me driving the route on my own. Thankfully the trip wasn’t all Greek – we’d driven down to our little apartment numerous times. But still, the App had a habit of deciding to send you via Paris, for example, and god knew I didn’t want to be on the Paris ring road thank you very much. Once round there was enough.
The husband stepped up, I’d say happily, but he’s not really the biggest fan of being my tech helpdesk, and who could blame him. Anyway, he took my phone and only huffed a little bit. Job done, he handed it back, “I just deleted the whole route to the channel tunnel, we’ve done it so many times before,” he chimed. WHAT?
“What? NO!” I gasped, “You always do that bit of the drive – I haven’t the first clue how to get there. I don’t even know which way to turn at the end of the road for heaven’s sake.”
“Um – YES!”
My eyesight isn’t the best in the dark and given we left before 5am for the Euro Tunnel, we always played it that he did the first leg of the drive – from his mum’s to the Folkestone, then we did two hours on, two hours off down France. Five o’clock in the morning was no time to be mapless.
I aced the driving, if I do say so myself. Co-Pilot behaved, mostly, and with regular stops to stretch legs, find a loo and drink coffee there were lots of opportunities to do double check it wasn’t going whacko.
It was only as we approached Dijon that my confidence in it failed. The husb had programmed our overnight hotel as a ‘waypoint’ and I simply couldn’t figure out what time we were due to arrive. Was the ETA the ETA to our way point, or the apartment at the end of the trip? And the route looked a bit off, to be honest. And the travel time kept changing. Dramatically. Every few minutes we seemed to be going to be an hour later. I pulled up trusty Google Maps for a comparison. There wasn’t one. Two totally different stories. Did I follow Co-Pilot and possibly drive in some peculiar direction, for the next however long, hoping to arrive, maybe, at the hotel (we had struggled to find the address on Co-Pilot the night before….)? Or did I risk Google Mapsing it? To be honest Google Maps had a tendency to pick a funny route sometimes too, but at least the ETA looked reasonable. I took a plunge.
I wish I’d stuck Strava on or something like that so I could have seen where we’d driven. I have a feeling it wasn’t all that direct. We left the motorway, which was a big relief, and at one point got sent down a gravel road, which I u-turned and got out of then later looked over a bridge and thought I possibly maybe saw people driving out of, if it was the same one… But we made it to the hotel, and it wasn’t terribly late, and it had been nice to get out of the Dijon motorway traffic and see a bit of something different.
The Ibis budget was nothing to write home about, and we didn’t expect it to be. But it was clean, and comfy, and had a shower and enough room for the hamster to have a run around in his ball. (Did I mention the pets saga? I don’t think I did. Well, our beloved puss was lodging with a friend and Inky the hamster was having an adventure.) And, bonus, even though we were on a kind of industrial estate there was a Court Paille restaurant a short walk away – perfect for lovers of grilled cow (unfortunately not me) and very child friendly.
So Day 1 was done. A success. We were safely a good deal of the way to the next phase of our lives.