So it ends. To paraphrase the song, “You take the highway and we’ll take the slow road” because there was no need to rush today. Orly airport is about 300 km from Puxe, about 3 hours by autoroute with tolls or a little longer by the country roads. Our first flight, BA337 to London where we join Qantas QF2, leaves at 7:30 pm so, even allowing a generous safety margin getting to the airport by 4:00 pm seemed soon enough.
I woke at 5:00 am and then snoozed and tossed until 6:00 am when I decided I really was not getting back to decent sleep. I got up and worked on photos in the gloom until 7:00 am when Majella was awake and it was more respectable to be moving around with lights on. Breakfast was at 8:00 am so we had plenty of time to shower, dress and work on our packing.
At breakfast we were joined by the other overnight guests, a German couple from Karlsruhe who were in the area to visit the Verdun battlefield. They spoke English as well as German and French so we were able to engage in some conversation over breakfast.
Soon after 9:00 am we had the luggage down and in the car. I set the GPS to the address for dropping the car at Orly with tolls off. We expected that would take a little longer, no problem with the time we had in hand, and take us on a more scenic route. It had rained overnight and there was heavy cloud and some mist about. We got to the car without rain but there was some light rain during the first hour or so of travel.
I drove the first leg that took us toward Verdun. That was not somewhere we had planned to visit and at first I thought the road would turn away before we got there but after passing multiple signs to battlefields and a couple of military graveyards we did drive through Verdun. The grey weather suited our sombre mood and soon after we left Verdun the random selection of songs playing from my phone came up with Eric Bogle’s The Gift of Years, strangely appropriate though written about Gallipoi rather than France.
Two hours down the road we stopped at L’Épine for coffee and pastries and to change drivers. We also bought a filled baguette that we planned to eat for lunch at some convenient time and place. Majella had driven just a little way when we felt compelled to stop again to admire an elaborately decorated church. It was just one of many that we have seen on our travels through Europe but most of those have been in large cities and this was in a relatively small town.
The next part of the road wound through more cultivation of low crops that we did not recognise. There were occasional silos for grain storage and some factories. Eventually we noticed one of those signed with Tereos and a quick check in Google established that they produce sugar and bio-ethanol from beet and cane. We surmised the crops, or at least some of them, must be sugar beet.
We had seen several signs for towns that included champagne in the name, indicating that we were in the Champagne region. Despite that we had seen no grapes until eventually we saw some vineyards on hillsides in the distance and signs advertising cellar door sales of champagne. Sadly we had neither the time nor the spare baggage allowance to accommodate tasting and purchase so we drove on.
Lunch time came and went without sign of a suitable place to stop and eat our baguette. Ultimately, about 30 minutes short of our destination we pulled off into a residential area outside Paris in search of a park. We found an open green area across the street from a shopping centre, parked, and ate our lunch standing in the open. We had been sitting all morning so standing was not a problem.
We arrived at the drop off point around 2:00 pm. Formalities were simple. We had driven almost 6500 km without incident or scratch though we had accumulated a bit of dirt and grime. The man from TT drove us to the terminal where we waited a couple of hours before we could check in. As we waited there was a minor security scare prompted by a bag someone had left where they should not. We were herded out of the area where we were but after 10 minutes or so all was clear and we could return.
The check in counter for BA opened around 4:00 pm so we lined up and collected our boarding passes. Even then they could not take our baggage so we are sitting in a bar waiting until we can drop our bags at 6:15 pm, clear security and be on our way.