Running a French Holiday Gite in Rural Brittany

Monday, September 06, 2010

We've been on holiday again - travelling out via Eurotunnel this time

We decided this year that like last year we were going to 3 weeks of the school summer holidays for a long break in our french country holiday home. Although it uses up an awful lot of my annual leave, it's worth it to be able to spend a lot of time together as a family and to unwind and not think about work at all.

This year for the first time I decided that we'd try out Eurotunnel as it'd be an experience for the kids and as we were taking Dexter the dog with us Liz wouldn't have all the angst of having to leave him in the car when we went onto the ferry. Eurotunnel did have one drawback though, Liz has in the past said that she was dead scared of the tunnel and didn't want to go through it, but as she had been forced to go through the tunnel twice before on coach trips with her friends I figured the worst of her panic was over and I could safely book a Eurotunnel crossing without fear of being murdered enroute!

I have to admit to being quite surprised by how reasonable the Eurotunnel crossing prices were; when I booked in February 2010, for the peak August summer crossing it was just £69 and as I paid with Tesco clubcard vouchers I was pleased that the actual voucher cost was just £17.50. Mind you as we'd had to spend £1,750 in Tesco stores and petrol stations to earn these vouchers it does show just how you have to spend an awful lot with clubcard to earn something of value.

On a grey, overcast and "typical British" summer morning we set off for Folkestone and for once we arrived with plenty of time on our hands. A quick wee stop for the kids and the dog, a wander round the shopping area which was nothing much exciting (definitely had less than the equivalent airport retail experience, and arguably on a par with a motorway service station), then back into the car and by then it was raining.

If you've not been on Eurotunnel before it's quite an experience. You drive down onto the platform alongside your train and then drive into the train itself. The carriages designed to take cars are double-decker and we ended up being upstairs, giving Liz another anxious moment as she drove up the ramp into the carriage.

You then drive down the train through each of the carriages until you reach the next parked vehicle ahead of you, stop, put the handbrake on and turn the engine off.
When all the carriage is full of vehicles they automatically bring down doors and a roller blind at the end of the carriage to seal the carriage off from the next one, presumably to prevent fire spreading.

When the train is moving you can push a button alongside the doors to release them and walk through into the next carriage if you want to. Every couple of carriages there are toilet on one side and stairs down to the lower vehicle deck, but as its identical to the upper deck there's not really much to see.

And that's about it. There's no other facilities onboard the train, you're not really onboard for long enough to warrant a coffee bar or shop as the whole journey time only takes 40 minutes or so.

The train ride itself is incredibly smooth and in fact is the smoothest train journey I have ever travelled on. I showed the kids a trick I saw one of the Eurotunnel marketing guys demonstrating on the TV some years ago, when the train was speeding along under the sea at 80mph+ I was able to get a £1 coin out of my pocket and balance it on its edge on the floor of the train. There is so little swaying or jolting of the train that the coin will stay perfectly balanced on its edge!

A short while later we emerged from the other side and once the train had stopped and the doors at the end of each carriage had opened we drove off and out of the train and onto the Autoroute towards Brittany.

We also drove into another patch of rain, but this was different, it was French rain!

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