The poetry and synchronicity of my choice of car name and my choice of first destination in France is not lost on me. Both Lancelot and Avallon are famous in the Arthurian legend, which I was obsessed with as a child (well, and as an adult). It is fitting that this is the start of my own knight-errant journey.
Unfortunately, for someone that travels as much as I do, I am a terrible packer. I take way too many things, it takes me way too long, and it stressed me out way too much. This trip was always going to be a doozy, because it is the first time I’ve travelled with Lumi, and I wanted to be prepared for all the activities I had in mind: picnics, working on my large monitor, reading 20 books… and because Lancelot is a 7-seater, I just figured I could fit it all, so why whittle down?
I also tend to leave things to the last minute… and the extra admin load of trying to get Lancelot fixed in time (it was), get my insurance to pay (they haven’t yet), get my home phone fixed (it finally was), get my mobile number ported (it screwed up, still isn’t)… you get the idea, its been busy with lots of shitty tasks that take forever and make your blood boil.
Anyway, after spending Sunday furiously packing and sorting and tidying, I had a lovely evening with friends at my quasi-farewell (quasi- because I’m back again in London in 10 days… before heading off again). Then Monday morning I awoke at 6am nervous and excited. The morning was filled with more packing, more tending to Lumi, loading the car up, working out how to use all the snazzy features like “adaptive cruise control” and “active lane assistance” (which are the very reasons I bought Lancelot), and then finally – FINALLY! – driving off.
I have to say, driving with little Lumi strapped in her booster car seat next to me, panting with glee and excitement, was a belly laugh inducing sight every time I turned to her. She was a dream passenger: she didn’t get sick, she kept me amused, and she clearly enjoyed the experience.
For both our sakes, we took loads of breaks and little walks. God bless France and their frequent and unexpectedly delightful “aires” – little picnic stop-over areas to give drivers a pleasant break on long drives. We explored a few of those, Lumi sniffing about frantically, seeming to inhale France.
For some reason though, it just took much much longer than I thought it was… I left the UK at 9:30am, got to the Channel Tunnel at 11:20am, my train was at 12:20pm, we got there by 1pm which was obviously 2pm in France… but I didn’t get to Avallon until 9:30pm. Yes, we took loads of stops along the way, but still… it was LOOOONG and my back ached and my eyes were strained and I was hungry.
Nevertheless, it was a beautiful drive. What is it about French countryside and how luminescent it is, the fields glowed with verdant green and everything was drenched in thick golden light. I was listening to The Martian on Audible the whole way, and found the experience delightful, despite its length.
The good news is Lancelot’s “active cruise control” and “active lane assistance” were abundantly useful. The former adjusts my speed automatically based on the speed of the car ahead of me, keeping me at the maximum speed I wanted to travel that was automatically adjusted by the speed signs we passed; and the latter gently nudges me if I veer too close to a lane marking, ensuring I don’t accidentally forget what side of the car I’m driving in. It felt very safe and reassuring.
Anyway, after a late meal of pasta and red wine, I crashed. I am in a beautiful 20-room chateau owned by my dear friend, but trying to work out what room to pick when it was pitch black when I arrived was tough. I wandered around with my torch, until I found a room that was just right: big bathroom attached, a warm feel, overlooking the garden. I slept the sleep of a deeply exhausted human.
Today, I am broken. The drive yesterday really took it out of me, and I’ve barely functioned. I spent the day exploring the lovely house I’m in, including the gardens and grounds around it, and then exploring Avallon and its cute streets and cafes with Lumi. I’ve laughed out loud watching Lumi have a garden of her own for the first time: she runs around like a lunatic, chasing sunlight it seems, beaming ear to ear. I’ve set up my monitor and computer on the dining table so I can gaze at the garden while I type. I’ve unpacked and nested a little. I’ve eaten at a sweet cafe where they swoon over Lumi. I did yoga and meditated in the chateau’s sunny little conservatory. I’ve set myself some goals and made some plans. Now I’m catching up on work. All in all, a simple quiet day. The rest of the week will be more vigorous in getting through my goals and plans.
The loneliness of doing all this solo hasn’t hit me yet, I’ve done a lot of my travel alone, and I have little Lumi to amuse and accompany me. Let’s see what the rest of this week holds!