Dunkirk

Sunday, 4th January 2015

I’ve already mentioned the poor night I’d had on Friday but Saturday night made up for that. I slept so soundly that I didn’t hear the alarm at all so it was well into the morning before I surfaced. This was a great disappointment to me as I’d planned on visiting the Eglise de l’Espérance for the morning service at 10:00am.

So after a more leisurely start than anticipated I toddled off for a mooch around. The day was bright though cold, and a short distance down the road was the Tour du Leughenaer (the hotel is on Rue du Leughenaer), which dates from around 1450.

Tour du Leughenaer

You can see the hotel (the rust-coloured building) in the background on the right. Further along was the marina:

Marina 1
Marina 2

Then, across the water, was the Dunkirk Port Museum and berthed alongside was one of the exhibits, the tug Entreprenant:

Entreprenant

Further along was the previous Sandettie light vessel. There is a current one moored in the English Channel to mark the Sandettie Bank and which replaced the one in the picture in 1989. Besides warning of the sandbank, the vessel (unmanned and without engines) relays weather data which is reported on the BBC’s Shipping Forecast.

Sandettie

Lastly, there was the Duchesse Anne, a sail training vessel launched in 1901 as the Grossherzogin Elisabeth. She was given to France by Germany in 1945 as part of the reparations following World War 2:

Duchesse Anne

Here are the 3 in panorama:

3 ships

There was an information board, too:

info

Later, I drove out to Bray-Dunes, right on the Belgian border. The last time I was here there was a little market on the main car park, but alas (or should that be “hélas”) not this time.

So here’s a picture of the beach, from which some of the 300,000 troops recovered in Operation Dynamo were evacuated under extreme conditions in the dark days of May/June 1940.

Beach

In the evening it was back to Flunch for another excellent meal (Saumonette, sauce aux petits légumes, and Gateau Basque), then off to bed.

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Rugby to Dunkirk

Saturday, 3rd January 2015

The day began bright and fair. The ferry was booked for 16:00 but I had to be in Dover an hour earlier for check-in. That left me an hour or so free, so what better than to revisit Summersault and indulge in another slice of the famed lumberjack cake? This I duly did, and most enjoyable it was too. Very highly recommended if you’re in the area, though a tad expensive at £5.60 for the cake and a hot chocolate.

British cars on the continent have to carry a sticker with the letters “GB” on it. I’d bought one last year, a magnetic re-usable one, but couldn’t find it anywhere. Fortunately, coming into Dover on the A20, there’s a BP service station which has a Spar shop. This shop has a good range of last-minute-before-the-ferry items as well as the usual groceries, and I was easily able to get the necessary GB plate. They have beam deflectors, too, if you happen to have forgotten those. The co-ordinates for your satnav are N 51.1184, E 1.3078.

Next stop proved to be the DFDS check-in as the security checkers were not interested in having a look around the car and my person – I was just waved on. Everything went smoothly and I was soon boarding as night descended. The transit time is just 2 hours but France is an hour in front of UK time so it was after 19:00 when we arrived. The ship had a different layout than the ones I’d previously used so it took me a little while to work out where I’d left the car. I’d really cut it fine as by the time I’d found it and climbed in the bow doors were opened and I drove straight off. It could have been embarrassing as I was in pole position and would have blocked one exit lane had I not moved in time.

The Dunkirk ferry terminal is starting to become familiar, so I was able to drive quite a way before stopping to ask Lori the SatNav Lady to get me to the Dunkirk ibis. Previously, I’ve stayed at the ibis Budget in Grande Synthe but this time the “proper” ibis in the town centre had a special offer so I’d decided to give it a try. It was easy enough to find but there is only on-street parking available at the hotel which made things tricky. The hotel is large, rambling and (shall we say) from a bygone era so all things considered it’ll be the ibis Budget from now on.

The last thing to do on this long and tiring day (hadn’t had much sleep the night before, which is absolutely no reflection on the Travelodge) was to drive over to the Auchan hypermarket and get something to eat at Flunch. This turned out to be Demi Coquelet à la Périgourdine (half a chicken in a truffle sauce) followed by Tarte au Citron Meringuée (lemon meringue pie) and very enjoyable it was, too, especially the ratatouille from the help-yourself accompaniments.

Then it was back to the hotel for a good night’s sleep.

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Blyth to Rugby

Friday, 2nd January 2015

After packing the car with all things necessary for a continental tour (or so I thought), including the all-important bag containing the electronic gubbins and associated cables, I set off on the adventure. First stop was to pick up some snacks (of the chocolatey variety) and fill up with diesel at the local ASDA, and it was whilst pondering this and that whilst holding the fuel hose that I realised I’d forgotten something important. Don’t ask me what it was because I’ve forgotten. This required a return to home base to recover it (whatever it was) and then I was finally in a position to set off. I believe these are called “senior moments”, and I can well do without them.

The road to Rugby begins with the A193 and on to the A189 “Spine Road”. Down the A189 I joined the A19 and turned left for the Tyne Tunnel. Safely through it was a long haul, still on the A19, to Thirsk and the A168. A few miles later I joined the A1(M) southbound looking forward to a break at Wetherby services, which is roughly half-way to Rugby. The weather, which up to now had been fine, started to close in and there was intermittent rain.

After the break it was back to the motorway, the A1(M) becoming the plain A1 and back again, until reaching the M18. Turning right along here soon brought me to the M1 and its miles and miles and MILES of roadworks with a 50mph limit. Driving on the continent is SO much better.

Finally, well past I’ve-had-enough time, it was a branch right onto the A426 and so to the Travelodge at Rugby. By now it was dark and raining, so after setting up in the hotel room I went off to the local Brewer’s Fayre for the evening meal. No link to Brewer’s Fayre as it wasn’t a pleasant experience at all and therefore not recommended. Next time I’ll be dining elsewhere.

Then it was back to the Travelodge and an overnight stay.

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