Abroad, part 1

This time last week I was wondering why anyone would want to go abroad, what with all this volcanic ash floating about causing havoc. After all, foreigners seem incapable of boiling water (and sourcing proper milk) to make a decent cup of tea, their bars serve just one kind of industrial lager - in halves - and there's all the stress of people speaking in a language other than English. The main reason people go abroad is to get some warmth, but I'd booked a weekend just across the channel in Dieppe with the Clarion cycling club, so I checked our hotel on TripAdvisor (not good - 11th out of 11 in Dieppe), packed some teabags, set the alarm clock (and I do so hate getting up early) and went to bed.

I was also worried about the rush-hour train ban in non-folding bikes, but as my folder couldn't handle panniers I thought what the hell and set off. After picking up the cheap internet tickets I'd booked in advance, we got on the Seaford train no bother and picked up a few more of our group at Lewes. At Newhaven it wasn't at all clear what we cyclists were supposed to do, but eventually joined the cars and after showing our passports to a person in a hut, were on board the good ship Seven Sisters attaching our bikes to Deck 3 with rope. That was it - no tickets, metal detectors, frisking or confiscations - though Amanda did get a grilling for her New Zealand passport!

But where was Nick? It was 20 minutes before the departure time of 9.30 and no sign, after frantic texting it appears he missed his train and was at the terminal - and they wouldn't let him on! The next ferry was at 10.30 that night. Meanwhile the 4-hour sailing was calm and uneventful. I bought a cup of tea (ie given a teabag at the cafe till and a token for the coffee machine!) and a croissant. All the cafes had a Sussex theme - the cafe was called The Lanes; the bar was the Beachy head - but all the staff were French! At Dieppe, we stood around in a cloud of fumes as the huge lorries left the ship, then it was our turn to mount the gangplank onto French soil. After being checked out by a Douane chap with gun at the roadside (we were still inside the barbed wire enclosure), we met Peter Avis and cycled over the two bridges into town and the Etap.

To be continued...

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