With the best of intentions to not leave packing everything to the last minute, we thought we would see if my recent purchases of a Georgian serpentine fronted sideboard, padded dining chair and Afghan kelim rug with hand grenade pattern, would fit into the back of our Honda CRV.
The answer is that they did, so midweek we laid the rug down, packed the sideboard with smaller essentials like Hellmans mayo and Quaker oats, and slotted the chair in sideways. Hurray. Morning of departure though still left a smaller mountain of pots, pans, glasses, towels and the rest to slot into all the little gaps and nooks and crannies. We still needed space for our travelling stuff though, so more re-arranging and finally, an hour and a half past our preferred leaving time we were on the road. Space was found for my two rectangular paintings of Venice and a flowerpot of chives and alchemilla mollis. Please pray no border chappies decide to call on us for a random security search as we would never, and I truly mean ‘never’, be able to slot it all in again.
Made up time in London after a quick visit to elderly aunt, and as it was Sunday evening the traffic was light through the city and the Blackwall tunnel. We got the Chunnel half an hour late but landed on the French side just in time to find the hotel (just outside of St Omer) and to find somewhere to eat. St Omer on a Sunday evening still had several bars and restaurants open after 9pm but we decided on a Chinese. This turned out to be an oriental mix of Vietnamese and Chinese but as we only wanted a tasty soup and some light snacks, it suited us well. I had the chicken, crab and egg-white broth and Jamie chose the ‘Pho’, pronounced as ‘fuh’, this soup is renowned as Vietnam’s most popular dish and is often enjoyed for breakfast and lunch. It has rice noodles, either beef or chicken, and tasty herbs like mint, coriander and red chillies. We then chose the Vietnamese spring rolls, served cold, these rice pancake rolls contain rice vermicelli noodles, mint, grated carrot or cucumber and large prawns. These are served with a sweet rice vinegar dip. We also had a Vietnamese chicken salad served on bean sprouts. Back to China for dessert though, with a dish if bananas in batter, sounds much more sophisticated in French ‘beignets de banane’.
Back to Hotel Les Sapinieres and our lovely chalet style room, complete with a perfectly formed small kitchen and living area, 2 tellies and a spaciously elegant shower room. Hope breakfast is good and this may well become a regular jumping off point for our return trips. Previously we have stopped in Folkestone and caught an early train but with the hour time difference that makes ‘Day One’ a bit of a driving challenge in order to reach the half way point at a reasonable hour (in time to find a decent restaurant!). This time, being in France already means that we gain nearly 3 hours. The hotel has a nice large garden full of pine trees (hence the name, I suppose) so Daisy has space to run about and play before we set off again. We have to avoid the hotel’s resident Llhasa Apso called ‘Gibbs’ who isn’t so keen on doggie guests and Daisy, not known for her diplomatic skills, might spark an international incident quite easily, although Gibbs doesn’t look like the romping-through-wet-grass kind of pooch.
Rooms are in the main hotel but also in small self-contained mini alpine chalet, complete with small seating/ dining area and a kitchenette. Smart tiled shower room and separate loo means that it would be brilliant for elderly or disabled guests as well as families. All the decor and fittings looked as though they had been finished yesterday; fresh and clean lines but still welcoming.
Breakfast is recommended as the choice was comprehensive. There was even a bowl of oranges and an electric squeezer to make your own freshly squeezed juice. Jamie had yoghurt with stewed apples, the crêpes with homemade jam and I had grapefruit followed by crusty french bread and local honey. It is part of the Logis chain and a fellow English guest also recommended a nearby chateau as great value for money.
Maybe next time, but for now we are off to Oyonnax, near Geneva.