Julie & Derek Thornley

We were slightly nervous the day of our planned Figaro trip to France – the furthest we’d ever been since I bought her last year was a few hundred miles, so we were a little daunted, but excited, about our forthcoming holiday. Spending the day cleaning & polishing every last inch of Topaz Mist and chrome, giving the car a once over (after having recently had a full service) and packing the back seat up to bursting point, we set off on our travels from York to Dover – in itself a 6 hour drive in the midst of hurricane Bertha.

We docked at Calais at breakfast time and began our French journey – in the pouring rain – to Honfleur. Our hotel thankfully had parking, so after navigating the narrow streets to the hotel, one of the hotel staff then accompanied my husband to the hotel car park.  We thought the car would be met with indifference by the French, having read that somewhere previously, but this was our first taste of what was to come in terms of feeling an immense pride for Audrey, who made us feel a little like film stars. Leaving her parked securely, we had a wander around Honfleur, a beautiful medieval town with a lovely atmosphere. The hotel itself was also beautiful and we were sad to leave the following morning.

Our next drive was to St Michael’s Mount – a fairly big drive but we got there for the afternoon, having been photographed on the way by a French man at a petrol station, who was fascinated by the car. It should also be said at this point, that on our way to Mont St Michel, the heavens opened and as we were driving on the motorway with the roof down, we thought we would get soaked as it wasn’t possible to pull in and put the roof up. The wipers were going ten to the dozen but we remained bone dry, as did the luggage on the back seat. Explain that!

St Michael’s Mount was amazing – we were stopping 4 km away in a little ‘auberge’, so we walked to the Mount starting off on our travels in bright sunshine and ending our walk in a storm. Still, the place looked impressive, rising out of the sea with marshland all around. We walked the ramparts and had a good look around (which included the purchase of a cagoule for me!) and then walked the 4km back. Although the place was bustling with people, it felt like a very peaceful spot and well worth a visit. We had a great meal in the hotel at night and then wandered over the road to get a view of Mont St Michel, lit up at night like something out of a fairy tale. At check out the following morning, the receptionist asked if she could help us with our bags to the car (ours was the only car left in the car park so it was obvious it was ours) and in her broken English, she conveyed her love of the car and blew a kiss at it!

Our next stop was La Rochelle , another big drive but we broke up the journey with a stop off at Rochefort en Terre in Brittany, a beautiful geranium-filled village that looked like it hadn’t changed in centuries. After spending a small fortune in a candle shop (as you do) we took on the challenge of the big drive to La Rochelle, arriving around tea time. We were again gawped at by pedestrians as we navigated the streets of La Rochelle to the hotel parking, where she would spend 3 days having a rest in a secure car park.

La Rochelle is a bustling, contemporary place, the antithesis to Mont St Michel and a bit of a shock to the system after the tranquil feel of our previous place. We were stopping near the old town, just opposite the harbour and had a wander around the plethora of shops and restaurants.  The following day we went on a boat trip to Ile D’aix, passing Fort Boyard on the way (the fortress featured on TV). On arrival to the island, we hired a couple of bikes.

Julie & Derek Thornley

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