Started the day with an alarm at 3am. (Yes! There are 2 of those in a day.) Taxi at 4am (which arrived early and waited) to meet our “feeder” coach at 4.25am. It was a little late, but we were on our way by 4.35am.
How it takes 6½ hours to reach Dover is a mystery, best explained by the number of “rest-stops” which we think have been added to allow some slack in case there are delays at Dover Port. Speaking of which…
We now understand why these happen. Your first stop is French Border Control. After the coach interchange was completed, we reached the Port around midday. En France, à midi, on mange. Lunchtime. We left the coach and formed a queue. Not a border agent to be seen. After around 5 minutes, just two persons emerged from wherever and took their places at their computer terminals and whiled away a few more minutes logging on. (By then other coaches had arrived and the queuing potential was greatly increased.) At last, our passports were checked. We were so pleased we had been the first coach to arrive there. We returned to the coach for a short 1 minute journey to UK Borders.
“Stay on the coach; they’ll come on board with scanners.” British efficiency! Not so. Just a good idea, badly implemented. The scanner resembled a 90’s iPhone prototype and worked (is that the best word?) just as well. It took at least a minute a passport trying to scan. Just over 20-odd minutes later we pulled away. To P&O check-in…
Clearly, the P&O debacle with crewing of a month or so ago, extended to the check-in desks. Staffed now, we think, with the kids the YTS scheme rejected. With queues of cars, coaches, lorries et al building up, it took us another 20 minutes to enter the boarding lines.
Thankfully, from then on, smooth sailing
We stayed at the same Mercure in April. Clean, well enough equipped and typically French. Loads of arty-farty décor, and all the electrical outlets in unusable locations around the room!
After a decent enough breakfast, we were on our way by 8am for a marathon journey through France and Switzerland, to Cremona in Lombardy, Northern Italy.
Nothing on the journey was particularly remarkable. Several “comfort” and meal stops along the way, a few traffic snarl-ups but all-in-all pleasant enough as these Luxuria coaches are extremely comfortable.
Perhaps the only thing of note was how much Switzerland’s pricing has increased in recent times. We’d (as usual) packed a picnic lunch. We were very glad. At the Basel Services lunch stop, we noted that half a (quite small) roast chicken (all sides dishes extra) was on sale for 25CHF (£22, US$25). Wow!!!
We reached Cremona at 8pm - almost 12 hours to the minute - and checked-in. Dinner was included and was a pretty tasty, but simple, three courses of pasta, chicken and panacotta.
Breakfast and then on to the resort hotel at 9am - about 4 hours (plus stops) away.