Imagine yourself in the early ’60s having a vision. “Wouldn’t it be a great idea if you could catch a train from England all the way to France. Even better, what about a train to transport you and your car there?”
We take the fact that you can do just that for granted now, but that ’60s visionary would probably have been thought of as barking mad to have such a notion.
Just think about it for a minute…… there are tunnels under the ocean taking trains full of people and their cars to France! You can travel from London to Lille in less time than it takes to get from London to Birmingham or from London to Paris in less time than it takes to get from London to Manchester.
You can now also take a train direct from London to Marseille. So much greener than flying and much more fun besides
So what about Folkestone to Calais with a journey time of thirty-five minutes? How incredible is that? Just drive your car onto the train at one end, sit and wait as you listen to your favourite holiday tracks and then drive off at the other end. Brilliant! Not too expensive either if you time it right,
This is exactly what Mrs Wilbur and I did in order to have a short city break in Rouen plus a couple of day trips to Le-Mont-Saint-Michel and Honfleur.
For added fun we also took our pet dog with us, now an altogether simpler thing to do than it was before – hats off to Eurotunnel for the very clear website and pet friendly attitude – they even had a bespoke dog exercising area at the departure terminal. Dogs cost £17 each way to take, as do cats and ferrets. Ferrets? Whatever, takes your fancy I suppose!
From the Eurotunnel building in Folkestone, we followed the signs for France and soon found myself driving onto an oversized train and parking up.
Jacques Brel, Brigitte Bardot, Maurice Chevalier & co got us into a Gallic spirit and before Mrs Wilbur had time to ask, “are we nearly there yet”, we had indeed arrived.
Within minutes we had joined the A16 for the 140 mile journey south to the capital city of Normandy. As has been the norm in my experience, the French roads behaved themselves and about two and a half hours later we found ourselves parking up right by Rouen’s impressive cathedral.
We were staying in the two star Le Vieux Carre hotel-cum-salon de thé, a half-timbered building typical of the city. The laid back establishment was dog friendly, right in the pedestrianised centre and very good value at €68 a night. We found it on foot after a reviving coffee in the main square and were advised where we could park close by for €14 per 24 hours.
We were to be highly impressed with Rouen. I had actually visited almost twenty years previously with my young nephew, but remembered very little about the place apart from the fact that Joan d’Arc was executed there plus I had vague memories of the iconic cathedral & colourful clock tower. The two structures mentioned were indeed impressive as were the huge hotel de ville and the equally massive palais de justice.
Most impressive however were the rough & tumble half-timbered buildings reminiscent of Stratford-upon-Avon or Strasbourg. The weather was kind and we relaxed happily into the al fresco cafe culture, augmented by tranquility inducing fountains.
I just love the French café scene. A place for people to meet, discuss topical issues, drink and smoke. Everything it seemed apart from eat. Menus were pretty scant in this respect – no problem as we were positively encouraged to bring pastries or quiche from nearby boulangeries to enjoy with our cafe creme or Kronenburg.
Two days of wandering the pretty streets was plenty to see all of the highlights – in truth it was chilling we were after and Rouen provided that in spades.
The next two days were designated for day trips……….