As so to the 10th and final
day of my 2016 Le Mans trip. How can 9 days pass so quickly?!
Despite the lack of sleep I woke up just after 7 am but as there was no point
getting up I slept on until 8.30. I knew we wouldn't be going up to the
bar for breakfast until after 10, so I showered and dressed and set about
starting to pack my bags. By the time the others began to surface all of
my gear was packed up and ready to be loaded in the car, as and when. All
of the 'team' assembled outside the hotel at 10.30 and we made the short trip up
the road for the last time for our coffee and croissants. Madame had
served us well during the week, ordering in our croissants and pain au chocolat
each morning and very good they were too. After breakfast it was back to
Auchan where I bought some cherries to take home, along with some of their cheap
(but surprisingly good) foie gras. We also completed the purchase of our
annual gifts for Madame and Monsieur at the hotel, flowers and chocolate to
which we added a BMW piggy-bank we had spotted at the circuit, as Monsieur had
significantly upgraded his daily transport this year from a Dacia to a 3-Series!
Then it was back to the hotel
so that those who hadn't already packed could do so. Allon was collected
by Sean for his journey home and all of the various bags and purchases were
loaded into the cars. The time soon came to say farewell to our hosts and
present them with their gifts.
We finally set off for the
journey back to Caen at about 12.50, arriving there at 2.30. We had plenty
of time as our ferry wasn't due to leave until 4.30 (French-time), although the
ferry port was absolutely jammed as it always is for this particular crossing
home. We were hungry and ate in the same restaurant as this time last
year, Le Goeland, where omelettes and frites were consumed, with which I risked
my only alcohol of the trip, some delicious cider which thankfully didn't
trigger a migraine on this occasion. Feeling better for our lunch we
returned to the cars and moved into the first queue. It was when we had
done this that James said to me, 'Isn't that Martyn?' Up ahead we found
the Tourists, chauffeured by Martyn and Nick. I was pleased to them,
especially 'Chief Tourist' Ian, who had been dogged with serious ill health
since being forced to miss the Le Mans trip last year.
We soon moved on the the
second and final queue and after only 10 minutes or so we boarded the ferry.
In the same way as last year, we couldn't believe that they would get all of the
assembled cars, lorries and buses onto the ferry, but of course they did,
although it took a while, delaying the ferry's departure until just before 5 pm,
time which we knew they would make up on the crossing.
As the ferry was preparing to
leave we went out on deck and were joined by Ian and some of the Tourists.
They had had a good time, having stayed at our old haunt at Le Grand LucÚ.
Ian had apparently made good use of the grandstand tickets I had managed to
obtain for him from Brian Sheehan at 1st
Tickets. Having chatted with the Tourists, lo and behold, Dan and
Phil, the husbands of two of my work colleagues, Polly and Aimee, came up for a
chat as well (in between beers!). It helped to while away some time as the
journey finally started. Toby had wandered off to read his book while
James and I grabbed a coffee.
We did a slow walk around the
shops on board, neither of us wanting to buy anything, but just to use up some
time and then around 8 pm we went to the self-service restaurant where I had one
of the strangest burgers I've ever had - instead of a bun, the burger was
between hash browns.... I shall remember to give it a miss if I ever
encounter it again! Ferry crossings are notoriously dull and no amount of
enthusing on paper can change that so I won't even try. We docked in
Portsmouth at 9.45.
We had mentally prepared
ourselves for the usual painful wait to get off the ferry and through Border
Control, but this time we were really in luck. Instead of three ferries
disembarking at the same time (as is normally the case), it seemed to be just us
and we were in the first 20 or so cars off the boat. Tony and Andrew were
equally fortunate. It took just 5 minutes - yes, 5 minutes - to get off
the ferry and through 'customs' and we were on the road to Rownhams services
with me telling my James that he needed to hit the road earlier than expected to
come and pick Toby and I up.
After about a half hour wait,
James arrived and we transferred our bags to his car. We said our final
farewells to James, our chauffeur for the week and set off for home, arriving
much earlier than usual at 11 pm.