Friday, June 08, 2012

Roadtrip to France: pushing south

Munson contemplating AmsterdamOur departure from Amsterdam didn’t get off to a good start. Although I woke early and stumbled out to the tram stop just after 7am, the short journey was doubled as the tram waited for a rubbish skip to be parked kerbside by a large street-blocking truck. Once out of our final stop, I got a little lost finding the way back to the park+ride station as there’s no signage and no one I asked knew where it was. Add in Munson spotting two bunny rabbits and wanting to give chase each time, and I was more than a wee bit grumpy by the time I got to the station.

As part of the checkout process I had to visit the parking office at the World Fashion Centre P+R office first to return my tram cards. I was told to pay “over the other side” and then when I finally worked out which  hidden corner of the large mall reception area was being referenced, put my parking and debit cards into a big parking payment machine.

When an error message flashed up in Dutch (despite having selected the English interface) and my debit card made crunching noises and it looked like I may never see it again in one piece, my heart sank. Praying that an unlabelled button might be an “eject” button I pressed it and my cards were extruded in one piece. Stepping back I found that the almost identical adjacent machine had slightly different orifices and I managed to pay with that after a few passes with incomprehensible Dutch messages. It seemed that no part of the exit process had been tested on visitors.

Back to the car and I found my row had been flimsily cordoned off with some crime-scene tape. I wasn’t sure if I’d done something wrong but I was beginning to feel like committing a few crimes as a stress release. Munson and bags were packed in, and then … the battery was nearly flat.

I went back to the parking office to tell them, expecting they’d have a jumper box but this wasn’t to be. They told me to call for service ( luckily I’d signed up with the German auto club ADAC for pan-European coverage ) but when I asked them how a technician would reach me inside the centre they realised it would be easier to try starting the car themselves.  With their assistance we got it going with a push-start and we were finally off.

Once on the open road I realised that I wasn’t going to be able to stop for a while until the battery had a good charge. The Netherlands is not a good place to do a hill start, and as it happened I wasn’t going to find any significant slope until I had crossed Belgium and was well into France some hours later. I did have to refuel much sooner than that, and found myself leaving the highway to do so and then finding that the station was one without any garage facility attached. After a couple of these I just couldn’t wait any longer and took my chances. I carefully picked a pump with good forward clearance in case another push was required. Thankfully this wasn’t necessary and the car was well behaved for the rest of the journey.

Aside from the time-slowing vortex of traffic around and through Paris, the drive south was otherwise uneventful and we reached Ken & Walt’s refuge in the Loir by 5pm. This journey home has been something of a slog, but it has made a real difference staying with familiar faces every night rather than crashing out in a relais (road house). Another bonus here and at Julian’s in Denmark has been the opportunity for Munson to stretch out in open space with another dog, so thank you to King and Callie on his behalf.


  1. We enjoyed the visit, including Callie of course.

  2. Welcome back to France Mike. glad to hear you and Munson made it home safe despite the frustrations. Thanks for coming up for my 50th. Will take good care of Gustav over the summer. Hugs Hugh


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