Running a French Holiday Gite in Rural Brittany

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Boulogne fisherman's strike meant a detour via Dunkerque

I'm writing this Blog posting whilst sitting on the quayside at Dunkerque waiting to be called to board the 8pm Norfolk Line sailing back to Dover. Unfortunately I can't find a WIFI signal so I won't be able to actually post the entry until I'm back in blighty.

On Thursday I left work slightly early and headed down to Dover en-route for a long weekend in our Brittany Gite. The main reason for going is that we're in the process of moving house in the UK and a friend of mine had recently given me his complete kitchen (cabinets, appliances, et al) as he was having a new one fitted. Thus we were given his old one which after a bit of remodelling would do perfect for the second half of our Gite I'm currently in the process of renovating. And with the imminent house move we didn't really want to have to move all the kitchen pieces from our current UK house to the new UK house, only to then a little while later to then have to move it again to France.

Hence why on Thursday I was driving to catch the SpeedFerries boat to Boulogne with the car extremely heavy on it's suspension. As well as all the kitchen cabinets which in themselves weigh enough I'd managed to fit in two large oak beams that were left over from when our front garden in the UK was terraced, so they too had to go to France before we moved.

Right now the Gite is booked up solid from June through to the end of August and I really wanted to take the things over, so for the first time I decided I'd go over when there were guests staying. I've never really wanted to do this before as I prefer to let people have the run of the place and not be disturbed by me coming and going, but I did need to clear the space so it was a compromise I had to take.

Of course I wasn't actually going to be staying in the Gite that the guests are staying in, now that Bob the builder has connected up the water in the second Gite I can at least "rough it" with a spare bed, the almost completed bathroom and an electric kettle - living on Pot Noodles and Sausage rolls for a few days won't kill me but the sooner I get the new kitchen fitted so I can have a few home comforts the better!

After a late arrival and long drive down from Boulogne I reached the Gite at 3am, left the car in the lane, and crept into the house so as not to disturb our guests. Next morning they were quite surprised to meet me but were very nice about it. Whilst we were chatting they told me how they'd come over via Norfolk Line through Dunkerque and had only paid £39 return for their crossing - an even cheaper deal than Speedferries!

Anyway, had a nice break over in France, did a bit of work on the house, met up with some nearby friends in Brittany, and all too soon Monday came around and it was time to set off back to England and work again Tuesday morning.

When I was over half way to Boulogne I received a text from SpeedFerries telling me that because of a French fisherman's strike none of their ferries were running at all today and I was advised to *urgently* call their UK call centre.

After 15 minutes on hold (which no doubt cost me a bit from my mobile) I finally got through and was told that a "lightening strike" had blockaded the port and so all they could do was to credit me the journey so I could rebook at a later date. Ironically this Boulogne/Dover ticket had already been credited to me once before in December 2007 when strong winds prevented SpeedFerries from operating - perhaps this is a cursed ticket, two cancellations for the same ticket is surely more than just bad luck??

Anyhow remembering my guests advice about the price of Norfolk Line tickets I decided I'd try them for a change instead of P&O or SeaFrance from Calais to Dover. I continued up to Boulogne and after filling up the car a the E Leclerc Hypermarket I parked in McDonald's car park to pickup the Free WiFi signal in all McDonalds restaurants. Worked a treat and by getting online I was able to book at the online *special* price of €46 instead of the standard €120 crossing price !

I did drive around the harbour in Boulogne for a bit to see what the fishing blockade looked like. I was hoping for scenes of angry fishermen waving haddock's or whatever they do when disgruntled, but there was just a few bored looking SpeedFerries staff hanging around the rather closed looking ferry port ...

Dunkerque ferry port reminds me rather of Calais of a few years ago; you drive through miles of desolate wasteland to find the ferry terminal, past rows of container lorries and warehouses, and when you get there there's not much in the way of facilities, just a cafe bar, toilet and a few video games.

Boat's arrived now so better blog off for now !

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