This was or last day in France. We had all day to get to the airport at Bordeaux from where our flight to London left at 7.30 pm.
We thought that we could use some of the time by driving north to the town of Erignac to seem some rather beautiful gardens. They were large and expansive, surrounding an old manor house in which the same family had lived for over 500 years. The garden had some spectacular lawns with not a weed in sight. Theur quality was probably helped by the fact that you were not allowed to walk on them. They would have challenged the MCG for having perfect grass. The partaires in the gardens were trimmed to a millimetre of accuracy and the gravel on the walkways crunched very authoritatively. We spent an hour wandering around feeling very grateful that we were not visiting at the height of summer and having to compete with large crowds of other visitors.
After a coffee, we headed off, choosing a route that was aimed at avoiding toll roads as this would take longer and give us more time to see the scenery and less time waiting at the airport if we got there too early. All went well for the first part of the trip until we were getting hungry and tried to find somewhere for lunch. Many of the little villages through which we passed seemed empty or closed for the end of the summer season. Eventually we stopped at a little cafe that was open but they had run out of bread for making a sandwich. The owner todd us that “Lee pain est finis”.
As we started off again, I think my GPS reset itself and somehow near the city of Perigreux we found our way on a motorway that eventually turned into a toll road. By now we were even ready to eat at McDonald’s or KFC whose signs we had seen by the roadside but we couldn’t get to them once we had entered \ the motorway. Our route actually turned out for the better as after 40 kms or so. we came across a service centre where we could buy a nice ham and cheese baguette and a coffee.
Back in the car again, we had around 50 kms left to travel. At first this was quite easy driving but the closer we got to Bordeaux, the more congested the traffic became. Not only that, but in a couple of places there were two exits within forty metres of each other. On one occasion, I turned off the motorway too early and ended up in a shopping centre car park. It’s not always easy driving a manual car on the other side of the road!
We eventually reached Bordeaux airport in plenty of time for our flight, however the parking area was rather poorly marked and we ended up doing three loops around the airport area before we could get to the area where rental cars were to be dropped off. We could see the Europe Car office from the drop off point by the terminal; we just didn’t know how to get to it. Eventually we were checked in and once through customs, we were on a very full BA flight to Gatwick.
Some people we know tell us that Gatwick is a far better international airport than Heathrow. Its, I think, the busiest single-runway airport in the world. The queues through immigration tonight were certainly short but having to catch a shuttle over to the South terminal and then wait 30 minutes for an express train to Victoria station (we reached the platform just as the doors on the previous one closed and it rolled out of the platform) doesn’t seem to me to be significantly different.
We reached our hotel at 10.00 pm – just in time for a snack before the bar closed.