A blaring horn cheekily announced the arrival of the local ‘boulanger’ van awaking us from our light slumber on Dieppe Quay shortly before 8 o’clock. Having feasted on almond croissants with a pot of tea, we set off on a first long day’s drive.
Taking advantage of the quiet Sunday toll roads our route east towards Reims was alongside busy fields of farmers getting in the harvest of cereals and fodder.
As the day heated up the various tractors and combine harvesters seemingly multiplied, so it felt that this part of France fixated upon making hay whilst the sun shone. The motorway, like the ferry, was full of holiday makers in cars, caravans and motorhomes speeding towards their holidays and enjoying the warm sunshine.
At the various service stations whole families de-camped from cars and picnicked by the side of the road chatting over improvised lunches whilst pets were hastily exercised, or nearly lost.
At Reims we stopped at the service station and eschewed fuel for a very reasonably priced bottle of champagne before heading on for the last 30 or so miles of the day. With 22 miles to go Bertha’s fuel light came on. I scrambled for the engine manual and we calculated her reserves as being just about able to make our destination.
We closed the windows and crossed our fingers as we exited the toll road. It was a gamble and one we thought we’d lost as the road stretched uphill across the Lorraine National Park.
With the second visit of ‘trip luck’ we found a fuel station outside the village and despite it being Dimanche, the pumps were open as payment was operated by card machines. Bertha tenaciously rolled the last yards to the gazole pump.
With great relief and still wondering how we made it, we pitched up at a pretty aire in Dieue-sur-Meuse, a Lorraine village we had stayed at previously.
It was 8.30pm and 29 degrees, so we opened the first beer of the trip and toasted Bertha, our lucky escape and the view of the canal alongside us, cool and green in the last heat of the day.