High-Fiving Palm Trees

Running, and other aspect of my life.

Buster Ivory and The Cyprus 3 on Tour 2014 (part 3)

Well if you’ve stuck with this so far, you may as well see if through to the end.

I’m really sorry it’s taken so long for me to write this last part of the story.

Busy busy busy

On the third day of our journey we headed South for our final night’s stay in France before doing the last day’s drive down through Spain.

There aren’t many places that we like to stay near the Spanish/French border, and so I’d tried to book a hotel that we’ve used several times, but I have a horrible feeling that they might have closed down as although their website is running I couldn’t make a reservation or phone them. If anyone knows what’s happened at La Terrasse au Soleil in Ceret I’d love to know.

So unable to use that one, I booked somewhere that we have not stayed before. Namely, the Chateau de Riell, in Molitg-les-Bains, near Perpignan.

The main part of our drive was great, no traffic, blue skies, the warm weather was getting nearer, then we left the motorway to go to the hotel.

I was driving.

We seemed to be running parallel with, and very close to the Pyrenees, but we were going up a mountain as well. The road became smaller and twistier, then smaller and twistier still. Our car is big and the drop off the side of the mountain was a long way down.

Although there wasn’t much other traffic, what there was was clearly being driven by raving lunatics with wings who had parachutes attached to their cars because they had no fear of going over the edge and wedged themselves up the exhaust of our car until they had a whisker of a chance to overtake which they did practically with 2 wheels in thin air then disappeared round the next bend in a cloud of dust with no thought about what traffic might be oncoming.

Each bend we turned we expected to see a scene of mutilation and horror, tiny cars embedded into the front of big lorries, body parts everywhere, but not one accident did we encounter.

All of a sudden, we rounded a bend, and were confronted by this astonishing sight.

Grand Hotel, Moltig les Bains

The Grand Hotel – Moltig les Bains

A beautiful, traditional hotel, with a swimming pool, set in a bustling little village. How did it all get here?? Up that twisty road? It just didn’t seem possible.

This wasn’t our hotel though, we still had a couple of miles to go, and at this point we turned off the small twisty road onto a tiny twisty lane, round and round, and up and up we went through a forest, then we saw the hotel sign at last!

Driving into the car park I was a bit disappointed with the sight, the hotel seemed drab and functional and not really worth that torturous drive. As I got out, another car pulled in driven by an wizened old man with his wife as passenger. Mike waited with the car while I nipped in to check that we’d parked in the right place.

Thank Goodness! We hadn’t!!

It was an old people’s home. In the name of sanity who put that there?  Very old people have to drive their cars up and down that ghastly road to get to it. There’s probably a vacancy every week when one of them just goes over the cliff.

Our place was just “next door”  ie a few more twists and turns, but it was beautiful.


Chateau de Riell

Chateau de Riell


It’s a baroque folly-style castle. Very ancient, and surrounded by a forest. Truly enchanting.

The lady who owns it has transformed it into something totally mad.

We had a garden cottage which had a little garden that went out to the swimming pool area. The interior of the room itself looked like a cross between somewhere a Hobbit might live and an iced cake.

This isn’t our actual room but it gives you an idea of the plastering


A room at the Chateau de Riell

A room at the Chateau de Riell


The plasterer who had been given the job of doing the room, and as we later discovered the rest of the castle as well, must have used all the plaster in France and Spain combined, whilst demented on drugs.

I loved it, it was full of quirky objets the hotel’s logo was an owl and so there were owls everywhere, paintings, ceramics, stuffed, embroidered, and metal. Also lots of other items of bric a brac that in most places would have looked really tacky, but in this fairytale setting just looked perfect.

We were greeted by Michel, who was “The Man”. Traditionally dressed in hotel striped trousers, white shirt and a brocade waistcoat with matching bow tie, he unloaded our car and took the bags to the room, he was the bar man and he made a mean Gin & Tonic, he served breakfasts, he appeared everywhere he was needed like a magic pixie. He loved the dogs and insisted on taking photos of us in the bar with them.

The drinks are on me!!!

The drinks are on me!!!

In the 'Out of Africa' Bar

In the ‘Out of Africa’ Bar




















After we’d had his excellent G&Ts we put the dogs back in the room, gave them their dinner and and went for our own dinner in their beautiful restaurant.

Something we’ve often said in places we’ve stayed in France is that if their restaurant was in the middle of London it’d be a sensation with Michelin stars galore and celebrities booking 6 months in advance, and this place is one of those. The food was absolutely fabulous. Presented beautifully, cooked au point, and mouth-wateringly tasty.

While we were eating the owner of the hotel, Biche Barthélémy came round the tables to chat to everyone.


My pud!

My pud!

Back to the room, quick wee walk for dogs then a good night’s sleep.

In the morning we had breakfast in The Russian Datcha! Yes really. Which is built out over the ramparts and hangs over the forest. Looking out you truly expect to see a princess with long blonde hair pining for her handsome prince, with trolls on guard below.


View from window of the Russian Datcha

View from window of the Russian Datcha


We took the dogs for a walk, on leads because they also have a multitude of cats around the place and if our lot went chasing into the woods after the cats…..well 150 hectares of forest is a lot to search!

Before we left there was one thing I was determined to see, and that was the second swimming pool….. on the castle roof!

Mike was too keen on getting the car packed up and dogs in, so once we’d brought it round to the front he got on with that and I went exploring. Up in the tiny one person lift to the top of the tower then outside to the breathtaking roof terrace with yes indeed, a swimming pool.


Swimming pool on roof of castle

Swimming pool on roof of castle

Swimming pool on roof.

Swimming pool on roof.

Mount Canigou

Mount Canigou




















The views were impressive, dominated by Mount Canigou which has snow on it all year round and contrasted beautifully with the blue sky and swimming pool.

It was at this point that I realised that I had the car keys in my hand. Oooh, I bet Mike was swearing. I leaned over the edge of the ramparts, and far far below I could see the little matchstick figure of my husband, with blue steam coming out of his ears. “Coooooeeeeeeeeee!” I yelled, He looked all around him, “Hellllooooooo” I warbled. Eventually he looked up. A reedy little voice reached my ears that seemed to be saying something like “Get down here – NOW – Jump!” Surely not??

Tiny husband!

Tiny husband!

I decided not to wait for the lift, but to go down the stairs. Even the staircase was spectacular. Carpeted in bonkers Zebra print carpet with a Brass handrail going round and round all the way down.



All the way down from the top of the tower

All the way down from the top of the tower













Forgetting the hurry I was supposed to be in, I stopped off on one of the darkened landings for a nose, then wished I hadn’t as I was greeted by this picture of a creepy little girl on a swing.

Creepy Little Girl on Swing

Creepy Little Girl on Swing


Spooked I ran at top speed down the rest of the staircase, then became distracted again by the lounges full of bric a brac, but everso tastefully done and so pretty.

I was jolted out of my musings by the appearance of my – now much larger than life – husband who was a little bit furious about the car keys.

Saying profuse goodbyes to Michel I was bundled into the car and we set off on the twisty turny road back down the mountain.

Because I was forced to leave in a hurry I did not find their Thermal Spa which is somewhere about the place.  Moltig les Bains is apparently famous for its hot springs, hence the Grand Hotel which is a Spa Centre as well.

Thankfully the rest of the journey was uneventful, apart from each rest stop we took for the dogs where everyone stared at them and talked about them or to them (we were invisible).  At one place we were sitting with a coffee, the dogs had plenty of water to drink in the car, and a coach driver kindly came over with a bowl of water for them, which they proceeded to ignore, Embarassing!

They have coffee, but we have none, won't someone take pity on us???

They have coffee, but we have none, won’t someone take pity on us???

We arrived at home in Spain at about 7.00 p.m. Opened the car door for the dogs to get out which they did, and then, having been in the car for more or less 9 hours with short walk breaks, they looked all round…… and got back into the car where they sat looking expectantly at us as if to ask, “Well we’d better be off again hadn’t we?”

Leaving them to figure things out, we unloaded the roof box and put things away. Mike got the cushions out for the patio chairs, I fed the dogs and we finally relaxed with our G&Ts in the lovely warm Spanish night air.

After a good night’s sleep we discovered that it is never a good idea to leave a house to it’s own devices for 6 months because it bites you.

Although the lovely Sharon had been in to flush loos and water plants, the house had clearly felt rejected and gone into sulk mode.

List of things that had gone wrong.

1)    Waste disposal had seized up and needed replacing.

2)    Dishwasher had developed a leak and needed replacing

3)    My Spanish car was dead, and the battery would not hold a charge even after being jump-started , new battery required.

4)    Automatic watering system in the garden had died, yes, it needed replacing.

5)    Most of plastic garden furniture had degraded in the sun and …………..

In a way this was all good because Mike hates being idle, so it gave him lots of things to do, and he got the whole lot sorted in a week.   We’ve also got in a load more plants and pots and extended the watering system to cover them, so it all looks very pretty here at Villa Marfil.

Plants and Toby's paddling pool.

Plants and Toby’s paddling pool.

Front of house

Front of house




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Buster Ivory and The Cyprus 3 on Tour 2014 (part 2)

Having said our goodbyes, I put the next hotel, The Chateau de Maumont into the sat nav and we set off. It was just over 5 hours away which was what I’d anticipated, and with a couple of stops en route to get coffee and walk the dogs I estimated that we’d arrive at 17.00.

At 17.00 we drove up to the chateau! Perfect! Nice and early, time for a G&T, walk the dogs in the grounds and then dinner.

“Sorry, we do not have a reservation in your name. We also do not take dogs”

Not words we wanted to hear.

“I have the reservation on my laptop, I said we had 4 dogs and you said that was OK!”

They double checked but had nothing for us. I went back to the car to get the laptop to show them the confirmation. Searched for Chateau de Maumont and found…nothing!

I refined the search to ‘Chateau’. Bingo! There was my confirmation from the Chateau de Maulmont

Anybody see something different there? Just a little thing???

An ‘l’. But a fairly important ‘l’.

I apologised for the mix up, (I didn’t like it there anyway) and while Mike gave the dogs a bit of a walk I reprogrammed the sat nav.

Swear Words, many swear words, really bad ones!

The Chateau de Maulmont was 235miles, or in practical terms 4 HOURS DRIVE AWAY!

I cannot begin to adequately describe how furious I was, with myself. I hate being wrong, and in this instance there was only one person to blame, and that was ME!

We’d given our credit card for the reservation so if we cancelled that late we’d still have paid for the night’s accommodation, and so we decided to set off for the correct Chateau.

I drove! I was going to fix this. There’s no way I was letting this situation get any further out of my control

I drove in silence.  Seething, berating myself and being absolutely livid, inside my head.

I have to say that Mike was a complete gentleman. He didn’t tell me off, or get furious himself. He just said, “It doesn’t matter if we get there a bit late, I’ll ring ahead and tell them, and ask them to make up a cold meal and a bottle of wine for us to have in our room when we get there.” Why hadn’t I though of that?!

It took about 2 hours of driving before I felt calm enough to make light of the whole thing.

We were heading for the Auvergne. This is a region in Central France which used to be volcanic.

There are volcanoes everywhere if you know what you’re looking at. They actually look like very green hills, although there are one or two which do really look like the sort of volcano a child would draw.

There’s even a volcano theme park, Vulcania! www.vulcania.com/en

As I drove up and down lots of hills, I thought that the car was struggling a bit. I put it down to the load; this trip was the first journey we’d made with the roofbox so we were getting used to the drag and I just thought that was making a difference.   Going uphill it did seem to lose quite a lot of power, but I decided to ignore that and stop worrying. I was going to get us to the correct chateau if it killed me!!

I finally admitted defeat after 3 hours when we stopped to let the dogs have a walk and I let Mike do the last hour of the drive.

I sat back and checked my emails, and received an absolutely extraordinary piece of news, so extraordinary in fact that I’m keeping it to myself at the moment until I’ve decided what to do about it.

All I’ll say is that it’s about running.

It was getting dark and we were about 40 miles from our destination when 4 warning lights on the dashboard came on simultaneously.

One was the general engine light which could have meant anything, one was something to do with anti-slip, and the other two didn’t feature in the manual at all.

We decided not to stop in case we couldn’t start again, so as Mike drove on I Googled the other lights. It transpired that the particular combination of 4 lights that we had triggered could basically mean anything from “Stop the car immediately, get out and stand at a safe distance while calling the fire-brigade”, to “Ignore it all, it’s a meaningless error message which even Toyota do not understand.”

We soldiered on, we were about 29 miles away by now. The tension in the car was, let’s just say, high.

Watching the miles count down, I thought “Only 5 miles away, we can walk it from here if we have to.” Then I thought, “No we bloody well can’t, in the pitch darkness, with 4 mad dogs. We don’t even know the way. The only way we can get there is with the SatNav guiding us.”

I briefly fantasisted about harnessing the dogs to the front of the car, sitting up on the roof-box, and riding it chariot-style to our destination with the SatNav issuing its orders from below.

Even one mile away was a great distance under the circumstances and so I was greatly relieved when we “reached our destination” at about 10.00 p.m.

Driving up to the Chateau, I was so disappointed that it wasn’t daylight. The place looked amazing.

We parked out front and went in to announce ourselves. The owner is actually English, his wife Scandinavian, but brought up in England. He couldn’t have been more welcoming. Our first priority was to get the dogs out of the car, let them stretch their legs and get them into the room.

It was pretty chaotic. They were v excited to be on the move and to see where they were. We’d been upgraded to a courtyard suite, which was fab. We had to go through the reception area out the other side to the courtyard of the hotel, where the remains of the original building that was a 13th Century Knights Templar stronghold, were preserved.

Our room must have been the original kitchen as it had a huge fireplace with a roasting spit large enough for an ox, and a big brick bread oven.


Shutting me and the dogs in the room, Mike and Ian, the owner went to get our luggage. After they’d returned, I realised that they’d left a few things in the car, so I told Mike I’d go and get them.

He said we’d all go and that Buster, Toby and Molly didn’t need leads. Well this might have worked had we not encountered a family with children just as we reached reception.

Four Fluffy white dogs and two children in the dark make for quite a lot of chaos. Dogs everywhere, children everywhere. French people talking at us about the dogs. “Ooh les mignons, les mignons. Je les adore.”   “Je suis en amor.”   Etc etc.

Rather than disrupt the whole place I suggested to Mike that he go back to the room with the dogs and let me sort out what I wanted from the car on my own.

At this point things took yet another turn for the worse.

Mike took Bella’s’ lead and half turned to go back to the room. He had not noticed that he was at the top of 4 stone steps that lead down into the courtyard and so he failed to step down them, instead taking the faster option of falling.

British Army training being what it is, and once learned never forgotten, he twisted in mid-air like a dropped cat, and attempted a Commando-style shoulder-roll to standing.

Attempted but not achieved, and as he landed on his nose on the flagstones I was surprised how many thoughts flashed through my mind in a mere millisecond.

I am ashamed to admit that one of the first was “What the hell am I going to do, in the centre of France, with a broken-down car, 4 dogs and the mangled corpse of my husband?”

That was immediately followed by “I wonder, if I get him vacuumed-packed, will I be able to fit him in the roof-box?”

Happily these thoughts were banished by the voluble swearing rising from the courtyard, and as the French family went very quiet and rapidly dissolved into the darkness, I stepped down, grabbed Bella’s lead, and picked up Mike’s glasses, while he picked himself up and checked for breakages, blood pouring from his nose.

Anyone who takes Warfarin will know the dramatic effect it can add to even the most minor of injuries and as the blood gushed, it was difficult to see exactly what he had done. Fortunately once we’d overcome the bleeding with a lot of tissues, we could see that in fact he’d just grazed his nose. I’m not saying that was a minor injury, it looked like he’d rubbed it on a nutmeg grater, but it wasn’t broken and neither was anything else.   Over the next few days various aches and pains came out but nothing serious.

By the time I returned to the room our meal had arrived and it was perfect; cheese, French bread, smoked salmon, salad, pate, sausage, wine, and petits fours.

Dogs fed, us fed, time for bed!

In the morning we got to see the place in daylight and it really was quite spectacular. Mike took the dogs out for a walk and found 3 large Carp lakes from another of the chateau’s previous lives, as a Royal Hunting Lodge, although now apparently they only hold Catfish.


Door to our room


Carp Lake


We had a lovely breakfast in the Great Hall, which had wood panelling and a vaulted ceiling, then rather regretfully packed up and headed for the local Toyota Dealership which Ian had phoned and warned of our arrival.

While we were checking out, I told Maartje, Ian’s wife about what had happened the previous evening with the Chateau Maumont/Maulmont mix-up. She was absolutely astounded as she had no idea that there was another place with such a similar name. At least she knows now that if someone turns up who thinks they’ve booked but haven’t, they should probably be 4 hours away the other side of Limoges.


Chateau de Maulmont, in the Auvergne,
NOT the Chateau de Maumont in Poitou Charentes


Driving into Vichy, we located the Toyota dealership who were as helpful as can be, and even found the warranty details on their system.  They took the car away for about an hour and it came back fixed!  We and dogs sat in the showroom, putting potential Toyota buyers off as every time someone strolled past lost in a world of paint colours and optional extras, Miss Molly suddenly barked at the top of her voice sending the pauvre French person two feet off the ground, and running for the door.


Waiting at the Toyota Dealership for the car to be fixed.


On leaving the dealership, I VERY CAREFULLY loaded our next destination.  Again approximately 5 hours driving time away…..or was it???

To be continued in Part 3…


24 hours? You’ve got to be kidding!

I have to say at the beginning of this, that I love my husband more than anything else, but no-one who knows him would ever describe him as “easy”.  He’s a No.1 Silver-back alpha-male with a streak of stroppy toddler painted up his front. However he has read this first as I’d never post anything about him without him reading it beforehand. He thinks it’s a load of blatant exaggeration and untruths, but hey, he would! xxx

Well, I’m back in the UK, arrived Thursday evening, and it is only today that I feel composed enough to tell the tale.

As you know, Mike came down to Spain on a whim and so instead of my being there for a week, we stayed on for a while.

It was lovely, but the weather was very hot.  I really didn’t mind although I had to completely trash Juneathon.  Mike found it uncomfortable and spent a lot of time going “It’s SOO hot” whilst simultaneously checking the UK weather on his iPhone and following up with “Well we’re not going back to THAT!”

It was quite relaxing as we didn’t have the TV set-up.  We normally do when we’re down there for a few months but this time we didn’t bother with it.  I had my laptop and a TV cable and so we were able to watch BBC iPlayer, ITVPlayer etc. on the TV screen which was all we really needed.

Then Mike rediscovered his boxed set of Sharpe! I don’t really like Sharpe but he LOVES it and so he watched the entire Sharpe saga back to back for a few days before we came home. He already practically knows each episode by heart, but enjoyed another rerun especially as a lot of the Sharpe series is set in Spain.  (This came back to torment me later)

Anyhoo.  We did have a deadline as I’m taking my Mum to the theatre in London on Wednesday to see Matilda the Musical, for her birthday.  So we gave ourselves a departure date of last Wednesday.

Mike was still very pleased with his 24hour drive down and “encouraged” me to give it a go on the way home.  “It’ll be so much easier with two of us driving, and once we’ve done it, we’ll be able to drive down and back every few weeks if we want to as it’s going to be so much cheaper than staying in the hotels for 3 nights.”  I admit that it is an expensive trip when we do it normally as we stay in beautiful Chateaux and have lovely meals and treat it as a little holiday

I wasn’t convinced about the 24 hour trip but I did agree to do it this one time and see how I felt about it.

He was trying to persuade me to leave at 06.00, but I said that if we were going to do a 24 hour run it didn’t matter which 24 hours they were and I wanted to feel rested at the start not getting up at 4 a.m.

Our leaving is always fraught, he’s ready about 2 hours before me, and jiggles about trying  (after many years of lesson-learning) not to hurry me along as it will end in a row.  This builds a great deal of tension which usually explodes around the moment we get in the car.

We were ready to leave at 10.00 then we suddenly got a phone call which delayed us for another 15 mins. (Not my fault).

I went to the car to put my laptop in it, and in doing so I had to remove one of the bags that he’d already loaded so the laptop could go under it


“What the (f-word) are you doing?? I’ve (f-word) packed the (f-word) car and you have to (f-word) do it (f-word) better”. He was at the top of the drive at the time and I was at the bottom, so the shouting could be heard all around the neighbourhood.

This did not get our journey off on an amiable footing.

Dropped round to our neighbour to leave her my car keys and she had to stand there while we both gave her our own version of events, talking to eachother via the conduit of Sharon. I feel that as she waved us off Sharon was not certain that she would ever see us again.

We set off, Mike driving, the grim silence only broken by “Lolita” the name we’ve given to the satnav in the Landcruiser.  Each of our Landcruisers has been a girl with a name beginning with “L”, Laura, Lydia, Lucy, Lily, and now Lolita.

Nothing much happened until nearly 2 hours later when we reached Valencia.  We’ve driven through the centre of Valencia many many times doing this journey, but the last time we did it, and on Mike’s journey down, Lolita routed via a new bypass which completely avoids the city itself. For some perverse reason, this time she didn’t, so we were back on the old route through the busy part of Valencia.

Normally when we’re doing city centres, I drive.  I like driving in the cities, don’t ask me why, but I like the challenge, and Mike really doesn’t like driving in the cities.  When we realized that we weren’t on the bypass, I asked “Shall I take over the driving?”    “Grrrrrr ,snarl, I can perfectly well drive” was the blunt reply.

He swore his way through Valencia, repeating many times “I don’t know WHY we’re not on the bypass”  This was growled in a tone with an edge to it that slightly implied it was my fault.  I was, after all, the one who had put the route into the satnav and so I had clearly done this deliberately to make his life even more unbearable, even though the only thing I’d put in was our home address and Lolita had planned the route.

Anyway, luckily no pedestrian was harmed in the “storming of Valencia” and we got out the other side and sallied onwards.

A little further on, we stopped at a service station to change driver.  I went in for a loo break and to get a coffee, Mike walked Bus and that set the basic rules for our swapovers.  Get in there and get out as quickly as possible.

I had packed a picnic as we were not going to be eating in 5star luxury and I had expected that we’d be stopping at one of the pretty picnic sites along the motorway  to sit and eat it, but that would have taken valuable time, so eating was only allowed in the car in our passenger stints.

For some unfathomable reason most of the things Mike said to me were spoken in a thick Yorkshire accent which was REALLY annoying me.

Suddenly the mists cleared.  We were in a fairly barren part of the country when he said, “Aye, ah bet Shaaarp and ‘is men wurrr ere faihting Booney.”

He was in full on Sharpe mode and I was a bloody prisoner of war!

Driving on.  We reached the border and into France.  Normally at this stage we would go to a hotel we know in Ceret about 10 mins into France and stay for the night but we ignored the signs and carried on up the motorway.

Mike was again driving at this point and I was trying to sleep, but I just can’t sleep in the car. I had my eyes shut, but every time the car slowed, or changed lanes, I was checking that we weren’t about to crash or go off the road.

About 7.00 p.m. I began to feel a little sad.  It was a stunningly beautiful evening in France and I longed to be basking in the evening sun on the terrace of a lovely hotel with a chilled bottle of crisp white wine and looking forward to a beautifully cooked meal.

About 8.00 p.m. Mike phoned Alison his daughter to giver her a progress report. He said to her that we were still doing well but he thought that I’d probably end up making him stop somewhere for the night.

Well I took that as a challenge, I had said that I’d do the 24 hour journey and so I was going to do it.  I couldn’t say I’d never do it again if I hadn’t done it once.

About 9.00 p.m. Feeling very sad, I realized that even if we did stop it was too late to get a lovely meal. (they eat early in France, completely the opposite to Spain where you can go out at 10.00p.m. and still be the first ones in the restaurant.)

About 10.00 p.m. Feeling extremely sad and sorry for myself. Starting to get dark, having been on the road for 12 hours, nearly twice our normal daily quota, I began to question, in my head, why we were doing this ridiculous trip.  I think that Mike realized that I hadn’t spoken for an hour and asked if I wanted to get a hotel.  I said that yes I thought that would be a good idea, but where would we get a hotel at this time of night?   I didn’t want to stop in the Motorway service stations because of the security problem, anyone could break into the car in the night, steal all our stuff and be off up the road in a flash.

We carried on driving.

Around this time another factor conspired to make this journey even more bloody miserable than it already was.

For some reason, Toyota, when they “Upgraded” the Landcruiser to this latest model, removed the ability to adjust the headlights.  Previously at night on the continent, we’ve just been able to lower the beam and it causes no problems to oncoming traffic, but with Lolita, our headlights blind the traffic on the other side of the road as they’re pointed straight at them.  Last time I put  sticky shields on the lights (purchased at Halfords) which more or less helped, but in Mike’s hurry to come to Spain he hadn’t even thought about it because it’s not something we’ve had to do in the past.

The majority of the traffic on the motorway at night in France is Lorries, and nearly every single one of them thoughtfully flashed their full array of lights at us as they approached to let us know that we were in the wrong

Headache began to forment.

About 11.00 p.m. I was SO bored.  Couldn’t use the iPhone because I had the Spanish sim in it and we were in France, I just wanted to stop the car and get out and scream.

I began to feel that even a motorway service station hotel would be fine, but checking the satnav, not one of the upcoming stations offered beds for the next hundred miles or so.

Mike maintains that I had gone into an epic sulk at this stage and was doing a good impression of a hard-done-by 14 year-old.

About midnight Lolita suddenly informed us that she wanted to reroute as there was a road closure ahead, so we followed her advice and let her take us off the motorway.  I was driving at this point and we found ourselves driving through pitch-black French countryside.

I snapped.

I said that I had reached tolerance point and that we had to find a hotel because if I had to spend any more time in the car I would just crash it on purpose and kill us all.

Our only stroke of luck was that Lolita’s new route suddenly took us through a small town (Estampes) and there was a hotel.  No, not the usual beautiful Chateau, but…… an Ibis!

I didn’t care. I pulled up outside while Mike went in to see if they could take us, they could, and they had an underground car-park for security!

The door to the carpark went up and I started to manouevre the large car into the small opening via the very tight angle it was at. A helpful person stood in front of me windmilling his arms to no real effect as I was ignoring him.

Suddenly the windmilling did have an effect.  It caused the sensor on the door to believe that the car had passed through and suddenly I noticed the heavy metal door coming down….. towards the bonnet of the car.

I flung the car into reverse and shot back out hoping that there was nothing coming up the road behind me.

The helpful person also shot out of the garage.  If he hadn’t I might have just driven off without him.

Got the car into the garage and yes I did bump it gently on the wall but no harm done.

We went to the room and then Mike had to take Buster out for a walk.  That little fellow had been SO good all day he is the best dog in the world.

By this time it was about 01.15.  I got undressed and into bed.  To be fair the room was absolutely fine, it was clean, modern and a reasonable size.

A little later I head Mike knocking at the door and opened it to find him balancing a tray with a bottle of Chablis and two glasses while trying to control the mad poochon on his lead.

Awwwww. I started to thaw.  What a lovely gesture, he knew how p’d off I was and he was trying to make up for it.

We lay in bed drinking Chablis and reading our books and relaxed a little bit.  Lights out at 02.15


Me: Please turn the lights off.

Him: I’m getting ready, we need to be off again

Me: What’s the time??

Him: 05.45

Me: NO WAY We’ve been asleep for 3 and a half hours. There is NO WAY THAT I’M GETTING UP YET you have gone stark raving MAD.

Him: Buster needs to go for a walk.

Me: He doesn’t he had one 4 hours ago, he can manage fine all night without a walk.

Off they went.  I turned the lights off, pulled the blind down and went back to sleep.

They returned.

Him: What time are you getting up then?     He demanded.

Me: Go back to bed, stop being so silly, I’m not getting up until I feel like I’ve had a night’s sleep. If we get ready and leave now we’ll hit Paris right in the morning rush-hour and I AM NOT GETTING UP YET.

He stomped about a bit then came back to bed. At about 07.00 I found myself balanced on one foot of the 7ft bed with him spread over the other 6 ft of it.  I foolishly asked him to move over.

“Bloody hell, bloody hell, I’m getting up, for F’s sake “.

So he got up and had a shower etc. then he loomed over the bed and yelled “What time are you bloody getting up then or are you going to spend all flaming day in bed??”

“Right, that’s it.” I said. “I’m not spending another day in the car with you in this sort of mood. Go, leave my passport at reception and just go.  I’ll make my own way home.”

I gave Buster a cuddle, told him to be a good dog, locked myself in the bathroom and burst into tears.

It takes A LOT to make me cry, but he’d managed it.

I had a shower and felt a lot better, opened the bedroom door and all Mike and Buster’s stuff was gone along with Mike and Buster themselves.

Right, that’s fine.  I finished getting ready and formulated my plan.  I was going to find out how to get to Paris by train or bus, then get a plane to Luton and be home before him!

I couldn’t get the wifi to work in the room but there was a free computer in reception so I thought I’d get it all arranged online before I left, but first – breakfast.

Thoroughly cheered up by my evil plan, and looking forward to seeing his face when he got home and I’d changed the locks, I sauntered casually down to the breakfast room and there, lurking in the corner was MJ Ivory.

“You’re still here then.” I said somewhat facetiously.  No reply, just a sullen glare.

I got some breakfast from the buffet and we ate and drank in silence

I then casually read a French magazine, in an annoying fashion.