Friday, April 4, 2014

Exploring Normandy and Ypres: Battle Plan Day 1

Actual Event Date: March 10, 2014

Good morning England!

Wait... England? I thought this post was going to be about Normandy and Ypres? Oh it is, have patience, we have to get there first. This adventure starts with me finally back in England (after a flight that "couldn't cross the Atlantic" and returned to Houston thus putting me almost a day delayed getting here. But that's a story for another day.) and it was a very good morning indeed waking up with a great week planned ahead of us...even if it was really stinkin' early. Like 6:00 am early. *yawn, big stretch, yawn* After several weeks of planning and anticipating this trip, Day 1 of our Battle Plan was about to kick off!

The Battle Plan was what L dubbed the itinerary he so painstakingly {and awesomely!} put together for us to get the most out of our time on our trip. It started with a list of about 50 things that we wanted to see and do that we put together from things we'd heard about and always wanted to see, things I had seen on a prior trip to Normandy and wanted to show L, things L had seen on a prior trip to Belgium and wanted to show me, and lots and lots of researching reviews on TripAdvisor.  He then plotted everything on a Google Map, we discussed our plan of attack, and he put everything into a spreadsheet to make our five day itinerary. He even thought to account for drive time between sites and recorded all the addresses so we'd have them to put into the Sat Nav easily. His timing of our days was pretty much spot on. I'm not going to lie, his Battle Plan spreadsheet makes me positively giddy just thinking about it. It. Is .Awesome. If you ever want a five day itinerary to WWII sites in Normandy and WWI sites in Belgium we have got you covered. Just ask.

Yum! Getting the day off to a great start.

Bright and {so} early Monday morning we were up for our 7:00 am departure from London. We had already packed a picnic lunch and some snacks the night before so while I was getting dressed and ready to go L made us a hearty breakfast to get us on the road with full bellies. We got the car all loaded up and we were off! {*Note to self- "boots" of cars in England are not as big as "trunks" of cars in the US. Invest in a smaller suitcase and learn to pack lighter. Even when you think you've put half the clothes back you thought you should take originally...yeah, put half of what's left back in the closet too.}

It was a little over an hour's drive to Folkestone, Kent to the Eurotunnel Shuttle that would take us under the English Channel to Calais, France. I'd taken the Eurostar passenger train through the Channel Tunnel before but was still trying to wrap my head around how we were going to drive the car into a train and then what it would look like once inside. Well let me tell you it was pretty darn neat. First of all we did not drive into the end of the train {unlike what I had envisioned} because there is an engine at each end. Instead we drove in at an angle into the last car of the train and then drove through the train as far as we could go until we reached the car in front of us at the end of a single file line of cars. In our case we were the last car on that morning. Well we were the last car on the bottom floor as there are two floors to the train! So cool. Then we pretty much unbuckled and sat back to enjoy the quick, 35 minute ride to France. Easy peasy. that's how they do it.

Inside the train ...and then heading out at the end of the crossing.

Once in France don't forget to drive on the right side {as in right-left not right-wrong because driving on the left side is really right...right?}. Don't worry, in case you forget they'll remind you.

Once on the road in France I got my first job of the trip and guess what... I mucked it up! Since L's car is made for driving on the left I was now the designated toll payer since all the toll booths were on my side of the car. And then many miles down the road the conversation went something like this...

Me: "No problem. I've got this. Look at what a great team we make, you driving, me taking care of the tolls."

*Couple of tolls done. We're cruising along enjoying the scenery and the beautiful sunny day.*

L: "Ah Stacey...where's the credit card to pay the next toll?"
Me: "Um...I put it on the console right here. I'm sure I did." {But there is NO card sitting in the console}
L: "You didn't maybe leave it in a toll booth did you?"
Me: "No I'm sure I didn't. I'm 90% sure I didn't. Well I am pretty sure I didn't." And the thought running through my head  'Ah crap...what if I left it in a toll booth? That will just stink.'

Hoping that it had fallen under a seat we decided it was as good a time as any to pull over for lunch and we'd just get out and look. Except it wasn't under the seat. Or on the floor. Or in pockets or bags or anywhere {thought in my head now..."ah double crap this really stinks"}. And then we noticed the little credit card sized slit in the console that was just perfect for a pesky credit card to slide into and get stuck in the console of the car! Good grief. Well at least I hadn't left it in a toll booth. Because I was 73% sure I hadn't.

So in Saint-Martin-aux-Arbres-Nord {say that 10 times fast!} we decided we'd worked up quite an appetite from our delightful game of hide-and-seek with the credit card and broke out our picnic lunch to enjoy in the sunshine before getting back on the road.

To be Continued...

Phew! Who knew I had so much to say about one morning's drive? If you stick with me I promise there are some pretty neat photos on the way. :-)

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