Having bravely accepted an offer to go and help out during lambing time at a dairy sheep farm at Fanjeaux in France, we needed to figure out how best to get there and back.
One options was to fly from Stansted to Carcassonne where farmer Luc had offered to collect us. However, that would involve using that less-than-funny bunch of jokers, Ryanair. Once all the underhand charging policies have been slammed on to a couple of so-called “£1” seats (check-in charges, baggage charges, taxes etc.) the bank account would be about £150 lighter. Additionally, of course, there would be about a week and a half of long term car parking charges at Stansted. For me, supporting Ryanair is not an appealing option.
We could take the ferries and drive sans caravane. That way we would have transport for the duration of our stay. Also, I have discovered that I can book ferries using my Airmiles so their cost is somewhat notional.
Brittany Ferries runs a service from Portsmouth to Caen (actually, Ouistreham) including an overnight service. The crossing is about 6 hours and a cabin would enable us to sleep on the boat. We’d arrive in France at about 6:30 AM and, with it being about 500mls/800kms from Caen to Fanjeaux on a pretty good, straight-shot kind of route, it seemed possible to drive to Fanjeaux in a day. A trial booking came out at about £310. That would get rid of a goodly chunk of my air miles. Then we started taking potential winter weather and hours of daylight into account. 500 miles would be no big deal in summer but started looking less appealing in winter. French autoroutes have a lower speed limit if it’s raining, after all.
Good ol’ P&O Ferries Dover-Calais route is pretty quick and flexible since they have frequent sailings. If you do have traffic problems and miss your boat, there’s another one in not very long. A trial booking looked like about £70. Now you’re talking. Of course, it’s further from Calais to Fanjeaux, about 650mls/1050kms, so we’d need to do it in two shorter days with an overnight stop both ways.
France has several chains of reasonably cheap hotels/motels so I investigated further. Formule 1 rooms are only about £30 a night but don’t have en suite facilities. B&B hotels are coming in at about £40 a night and do have en suite facilities. Furthermore, the rooms claim to be soundproofed. We’ve earned a few creature comforts so these are looking favourite at the moment.
In any event, the ferry crossing and projected overnight hotel costs come to about the same as bloody Ryanair and, for the added flexibility of having our car with us, we’d prefer to pay for the fuel. Besides, we enjoy the journey and we’ll get to see somewhere else en route – probably Orléans which looks suitably placed.
I’ve booked the Dover-Calais ferry going out at 9:15 AM on Wednesday 25th November, returning at 3:25 PM on Sunday 6th December. It was worth hanging on to an 0844 number for about 30 minutes to book it using Airmiles, 1000 of them, to save real money.
There’s an advert on TV at the moment regaling us to drive 5 miles less per week to save CO2 emissions and there am I planning to drive 1500 miles further. Whoops! 😳