Escape to France.
We've gone on holiday by mistake. It's a quote....from a film...called Withnail and I. If you haven't seen it, I suggest you do, but for the purposes of this post let me just say that it eerily encapsulates the way I (and my fellow vacationers) felt after a recent stint in the north of France. This is not to say that we didn't enjoy our trip because it is the company that matters most, after all. It's just that the setting was so unbelievable and the sequence of events so unpredictable that I think we all left dazed and in a state of semi-shock.
The occasion: half-term break for Owen and his teacher friends. The venue: the second family home of one of our travel companions.
The house was lovely and located in a very quaint, VERY French, teeny, tiny village about an hour from Calais. The restaurant down the road, La Planquette, a locally owned business that serves essentially gourmet food for a ridiculously local price. The neighbor, a friendly, small town, middle-aged man with a cigarette permanently dangling from his mouth and a dog with a constant bark. For the most part the village is peaceful and the snow only enhanced its charm.
The snow, however, did little for the interior atmosphere of a house with no central heating and very little insulating abilities. Don't be fooled by the fireplace - it didn't work. For the first twelve hours we sat on the sofas, bundled in all of our clothing and covered in blankets, watching our breath escape in little bursts as we played games and drank ourselves warm. Proof:
Unfortunately this did not stop me from developing chilblains on my toes (I'd never heard of it either - look it up) from putting my feet in front of the space heaters. It also did not prevent one of our travel companions from falling down those wooden stairs in the photo at 3:30 in the morning or the other one fainting from shock. The lack of heat further contributed to the panic that followed, as the gas-heat filled kitchen had set off the carbon monoxide detector earlier in the evening and SOMEONE was convinced that we were now all passing out. To calm this panic we left the doors and windows open until 5 am - completely negating all of the heating that had taken place in the house in the previous 36 hours. I'll let you guess who was who in this scenario, but I will say that Valentine's Day was welcomed in by a group of overly tired, relatively bruised and shell shocked individuals.
Despite all of these setbacks, I would still label much of the trip as enjoyable. All three nights the meals were fantastic - the first night at La Planquette and the following two home-cooked masterpieces. Our journeys out to local towns and historic attractions were appropriately filled with new sights and shenanigans. And, as previously stated, the company couldn't have been better.
Four things I learned on our half-term holiday:
1. The European emergency number and how to say "My friend has fallen down the stairs" in French.
2. There is a universal language composed of Disney characters.
3. Duck in a can is a real thing.
4. It is impossible to find the "lookout point" on the field where the historic Battle of Azincourt took place (on Friday, October 25, 1415).
I think we all breathed a small sigh of relief as we pulled away from our holiday in France. To be honest, I'm not sure we were ever fully convinced that we weren't being slowly poisoned by carbon monoxide. Would I return for a stay in Cavron St. Martin? Definitely. To be honest, the food at La Planquette is enough to draw me back. Though, I might wait for the warmer months.