Travelling home at the start of the pandemic


Continuing with readers’ stories about trying to get back home, this one is from Languedoc Living reader Maggi.

We have a house not far from Beziers, and arrived there in early March, planning to stay for a month or so. We were watching the virus spread, and thought we might tough it out. Then when Macron shut all the bars, cafes on the evening of March 15th, we started to re-think. We went to St Chinian market on the Sunday – horrible atmosphere with no cafes open. So we invited friends back for coffee when we discovered that they had returned to France early.  They had tried to visit friends in Belgium, but failed due to the lock down there.

At this point I realised that I would run out of medication if we got stuck. So we got on the phone to Eurotunnel and booked tickets for the following evening. We left at 7.30am on the Monday morning.  

Driving up through France was weird. Hardly any traffic, even around towns. In the service stations on the motorway, none of the coffee or food outlets were open, so it was machine coffee and plastic wrapped food.  We did manage to get some food at the Boulangerie in Issoire, but even there, all the seating was shut. 

As we approached the north, the SatNav said that we could save two hours by going via Paris.  Now we NEVER go via Paris. We always detour round towards Rouen – nicer roads and better scenery. And don’t get me started about the traffic. But two hours was two hours. So, Paris it was. Well… was about 4pm when we got there, and it seemed as though the whole of Paris was on the move.  Which  of course they were! Anticipating lock down, they were fleeing to their country place – taking the virus with them!  Our 2 hour saving eventually was a 30 minute saving as we trickled through the dense traffic.

Approaching Calais, we filled up at our usual fuel station, and had a quick pit stop at Auchan to get a few things for the kids.  To the Tunnel!  NO problem getting a train as there were few people waiting. And at last we were in the UK.  Tired and hungry but so what.  So – hot food. We ended up at Maidstone services, where at 9.30pm, MacDonalds was open. Chips have never tasted so good.  Onto the motorway. Very little traffic, but road closures, one after the other. Every time we changed direction to get out of one closure there was another one! We eventually arrived home at midnight, which of course was 1 am our body time. Happy to be here but sad to have left our friends and our house.

But we’ll be back once this pestilence has passed.