The Eurotunnel and the drive to Le Change
After parting with the Richardson’s, we started an epic three day drive to our next location in France. We headed south to Folkestone (Dover), where the Eurotunnel is located, and where we had booked ‘passage’ for the next morning. I think this day really marked the start of summer for us. It was hot. And super hot at night, and this day also marked the first day of both our kids sleeping badly for a few weeks, meaning tired parents.
The next morning we rode the Eurotunnel. This was a pretty interesting experience. We arrived about 45 minutes before our train and waited to board. It was a bit like at the airport, where you watch the screens and wait for your boarding call. When our call came, we drove through 2 border control booths and presented our passports (one British, one French). This was the moment where we waited in trepidation in case the British authorities accuse us of being in their country for too long, and the French refuse us entry because they think we want to immigrate (at that stage we didn’t have a return ticket home). No accusations were passed and we went through smoothly to a series of lanes where we waited to board. It didn’t take long before we were driving on to a double decker train, with just enough room for cars parked single file on both the bottom and top levels. Then we were off, and we could hardly tell except that the windows were pitch black. 35 minutes later, we were disembarking in France and driving off, on the wrong (right) side of the road. It was such an easy process.
We drove a few more hours and stopped in a pretty average hotel on the south side of Paris. Our room was literally like the hot boxes we used to use at my old work to transport food to keep it hot. We had a pretty rough night there, but made it through, and had one more day of driving before we could rest in our little Airbnb in Le Change.
Le Change is a tiny village in the Dordogne region of France, known for its walnuts and truffles. We had the option to pick our own truffles in the region, but we decided not to take up the opportunity. Ha ha. I don’t think that would quite fit into our budget.
We were pretty excited to arrive, for a couple of reasons. One – a break from driving. We were pretty exhausted from the trip and the hot nights and the restless kids. Also our car air conditioning is broken and we couldn’t get it fixed back in Scotland, so our drives are like so hot right now. Two – they had a trampoline and a pool. Fun times ahead. Three – Pete had found out that the Tour de France was leaving from the next town so we would be able to see it go off.
We arrived in the afternoon with no food, and did something I wouldn’t recommend – go to a foreign grocery store right before dinner with two tired kids. We actually did need food, so we couldn’t help it, but we were a bit excited – we were in France! We had brushed up on a few basic phrases and were ready for the cultural experience of visiting a grocery store and checking out all the fun foods. This is actually a fun experience if you have time to browse, and don’t actually have to feed yourself. We didn’t have those luxuries and we found the experience slightly stressful. We kind of forgot that everything would be in a different language. Mostly, pictures are pretty helpful, but a picture can’t tell you if the milk is skim or full cream, or if that’s butter or cream cheese! We did manage to get out of there with a semblance of a meal (oven pizza for the win!). One thing I have also discovered is that the French don’t have peanut butter.
We spent the next day visiting the beautiful town of Sarlat. This place was really stunning and picturesque. It was a lovely place to walk through, with market stalls and buskers, beautiful architecture and fruit trees all around. We spent our time exploring the windy streets, picnicking in the park and playing in the public fountain (Elena did this – it probably looked weird and uncouth to all the elegant French people. Our kids are vagrants really). If you are ever in the Dordogne region definitely go to Sarlat!
So we had found out that the Tour de France would be starting at the town of Perigeaux on the Tuesday, which Pete was very excited about. The Monday was a rest day, so our Airbnb host had told us (well, we think he did – he had limited English and we have even less French) that the cyclists would be having their rest day and would all be staying in town. So on Monday we set out to do a bit of cyclist spotting. We amazingly didn’t see a single cyclist! But we did enjoy exploring Perigeaux and scoping out the place in preparation for viewing the race start the next day. It was a pretty nice town and we could see lots of things set up for the Tour which was getting Pete very excited.
The Tour de France – Perigeaux to Bergerac
We left our Airbnb nice and early on the Tuesday. We wanted to make sure we could get into Perigeaux easily amongst all the Tour excitement. It was a pretty exciting atmosphere in town, with lots of people in their Tour paraphernalia and many stalls set up. We found a spot on the sidelines to watch the caravan come through – this isn’t something you see on TV, so we didn’t know anything about it. It turned out to be a bit of a parade of advertising vehicles throwing out a bunch of free stuff – ranging from magnets, to washing liquid, to vouchers, lollies and hats. It was a pretty fun atmosphere and we ended up with a pile of useless junk, which Elena loved. New toys! The caravan happens a couple of hours before the race starts, so we had a bit of time to grab some lunch before finding a bit of a quieter spot a bit further down the course. Pete was all excitement as we waited for the riders to come through. In fact, they whizzed past us so quickly and suddenly that we almost missed it! It was a very cool experience to witness some of this famous bike race.
After watching the luxury team buses go through, we navigated our pram through the crowds back to our car, and onto our next stop – Carcassonne!