Saturday, October 09, 2010

UK: Step 2 – getting halfway across France

In hindsight, getting from the Gers to Chartres was probably a bit ambitious with our late 1pm departure. Taking the partly-tolled highways as much as possible still meant 7-8 hours of driving. Realising that Munson did not like the new car configuration, which was more spacious for him but cut off forward-facing views and interaction with me, I stopped for 20 minutes and reconfigured the car closer to the old way so that he could look over my shoulder or sit with his head perched between the two front seats. So I may end up with a bit more hair to deal with, but I’d rather Munson have a more positive involvement with our travel.

The mapping programs offered two routes of nearly identical duration, one largely retracing our Atlantic Coast drive south via Bordeaux, the other (which we took) was a completely new route through the interior via Montauban and Limoges .

It was about 9pm when we finally crawled into Chartres, and another 40 minutes to locate our hotel which was a whitebox job out in some new outlying zone that hadn’t yet made it onto the GPS maps. Such a pity as I would really have liked to have focused a satellite death-ray on the site. I was nearly at the point of chucking it in and finding another hotel when I decided to ask at the desk of another hotel in the area that I’d driven by several times.

As I entered the hotel carpark, I discovered that it was in fact the one we were searching for: but the hotel had changed its name, logo and other livery from what had been shown in my booking hours earlier. The old name was still visible as a logorrhoid on the arse of the hotel name on a sign partly obscured by fencing.

I knew that the desk of my hotel would likely not be attended and had been supplied with a numerical code to retrieve my keys. In the lobby was a check-in machine which kept asking me to insert my card, but was so poorly lit I had to go through the sign-in procedure 4 times before I found the card slot. I was a bit distracted by the English language instructions attached to the front of the unit which struck me as a masterful piecce of nonsense poetry. At this point I started to think I was trapped in a Jacques Tati movie where the hero moves around in a world of stark modernity fighting dubious technology.

Malamutes in a cheap hotel room - they're all the sameImmediately adjacent to the hotel was a big McDonalds which I visited out of sheer hunger and reluctance to get back in the car to look for anything better. This particular outlet reinforced the Tati feeling as a huge number of busy-looking staff seemed to not get very much done at all. There were 8 people at the counters, not counting a supervisor, at least as many again in the kitchen, and a uniformed guy looking very much like the manager of the BuyMore in Chuck, who carried delayed food outside to the drivethu customers. The place wasn’t that busy but still the hive of staff seemed to be unable to deliver their McHulots and PlayTime meals in any reasonable time.

So now I’m in our little hotel room, which has all the personality of a dimple in a cardboard egg tray. Munson’s been a real trouper all day, and having polished off his dinner, immediately made for a bed.

See you in the morning…

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