Final Stage of the Lads' Tour de France
We left Nantes early as we had a lot of driving ahead of us. After all, this holiday had a purpose: Get our Mercedes van back to the UK. On our final full day in France we visted a couple of places to conclude the whistle-stop tour of the country.
The first place we visited was Rennes and it was unlike any other town we had seen on the road. The wood panelled houses were picturesque. These beautiful buildings that lined the streets, coupled with the now standard ancient French stone buildings, took our breath away.
While in Rennes we came up with the idea of a travel guide based around visiting a city in under two hours. After all, we had become semi-experts in our five night / ten town / 2500km journey. I'm not sure I'd advise people to do it this way but only having a few hours in a place does have a certain charm. You run around like a Chinese tourist snapping loads of photos, before being transported to your next destination. Neither of us are passionate social media fiends, otherwise we could have "checked in" to a lot of different places. One thing that amused me was how much harder this trip would have been thirty years ago, before Google Maps. And impossible a hundred years ago before proper cars and roads. Human society is developing mad fast.
Caen was next on the route and we were getting a little bored of amazing cities. The enthusiasm was fading with such quick movement between places. The level of architecture and history in France is truly remarkable. I had only been to our nearest neighbour (excluding west Britain, i.e. Ireland) once before, on a mini-break to Paris. I know France is steeped in culture and the rest of it, but this final city still managed to impose itself on my senses.
The Lads Tour de France was coming to an end but it would live long into the memory. On the last morning we had a three hour drive to Calais, and the gods welcomed us with snow. A lot of snow.
We had left so early that even with the snow delay, we arrived to the port early and got on the earlier ferry - brilliant. Then my marijuana use throughout the trip came back to bite us. Remember, it's legal in Spain but not France or the UK. This particular strain was very pungent and although I didn't actually have any of it on me anymore, I was smuggling the remnant smells of cannabis in my rucksack. This meant we were searched by six armed French customs guards like I was Escobar. I wasn’t Escobar.
Like most people, the majority of the customs officers were polite and I honestly explained the situation of legality in Spain and that I had nothing on me because "I'm not a fucking idiot." (I may be an idiot but I'm not a fucking idiot and don’t forget it.) One customs officer was trying to prove himself a bit and tore the car apart looking for cannabis, and even threatened us several times. Eventually they were forced to admit that smuggling smells across a border is not illegal. I farted on their faces and left them with that memory. Okay I didn't. Who wants a pissed off customs officer searching your ass?
From Calais I drove to Birmingham and then eventually down to London and a few days after that, to Portsmouth. The van was now full of things and the overnight ferry to Santander would do most of the legwork on the way back. I spent 90% of the ferry journey lying horizontalyl, as it was the only way to not feel seasick. I don’t have sea legs…
It took an hour to get off the ferry because Spain only had two passport control guys despite the hundreds of passengers. I then drove for about seven hours from Santander to Valencia, through some beautiful mountains. When I finally arrived in Valencia I was greeted by my best friend and preferred travel buddy (sorry Rhys) and Morning Calm was restored. We unloaded the car with some help, and marvelled at the final "mileage" of 3500km. The trip was over...and I could take a few weeks off driving.
I hope you guys enjoyed this slightly different style of blog. There's one more to come where I discuss the food we survived on during this epic journey. It’s a shame we had run out of lembas and the elves refused to restock us… Anyway, until then.