A day in France in a Subaru XV

What do you call a booze cruise without a cruise?

Sounds like start of some dodgy joke, right?

But seriously, if you get the train from Folkestone rather than the ferry from Dover, with a view to a day of buying booze, what do you call it?   We pondered this as we sat in the car park waiting to board the 09.20 to Calais last week.   We also pondered lots of other things, like how comfortable the car we were in happened to be.   A car we had been lent for the day by West Heath Garage to see what we thought of it.   Martin had been telling us for ages that when Mr B trades in his car shortly he should get a Subaru, but nothing really “sells” a car like driving it for the day, does it?   So we picked this one up the day before, in readiness for a proper day out.

A Subaru XV which has recently been awarded an impressive 5 Stars in NCAP safety tests, making it the safest family car.  Seven airbags come as standard.  SEVEN!  Plus something called Eyesight Driver Assist Technology:

…  a set of two digital stereo cameras that monitor the traffic movement to warn the driver of a threat ahead and to apply pre-collision braking in emergency situations, in order to avoid or at least to mitigate the collision. The EyeSight system also ensures the lateral support functions, warning the driver of unintentional lane departure and assisting the driver in keeping the travelling lane.

Vital on the M25 at 8am on a Wednesday morning, or 9pm on a rainy evening.  Slightly unnerving at first as essentially it “pulls” you back into the lane you are in on the motorway if you drift out of the lane without having first put on the indicators.  You can of course over ride it, but really clever technology.   Ditto the car’s ability to stop you getting too close to the car in front.  I don’t pretend to understand how it works, but it definitely does!

But to France.  I couldn’t believe how easy it is to get there on the train.  They leave every 20 minutes, you can check in and jump out for a quick wee breakfast, spot of duty free shopping, walk the dog, and then queue up and board the train.  You then stay in your car for the crossing, safe in a pod of about four other cars.   There isn’t really anything to do, you aren’t encouraged to wander about but there are loos at regular intervals if you have a bladder the size of mine, ie a gnat.

It’s a lovely way to travel, there is no clambering up stairs to get above deck, no queuing for a coffee etc.   You sit in your car and relax and then emerge half an hour later, in France (or indeed back in the UK with a boot full of booze and cheese)

Whilst Calais is a bit soulless and the industrial estates could be anywhere, it is very easy to get on the motorway and get a bit further away.   Ten minutes later and you are in Sangatte for instance.  Famous for once having it’s detention centre for refugees, but there is more to the town than that.

The name is derived from the Flemish “gap in the sand” and is where the channel tunnel works took place so a couple of the boring machines (boring as in making holes, not boring as in dull) are now displayed on various roundabouts as a reminder.    The countryside is beautiful and it is well worth a drive if you have the time.


Especially if you like big skies, and rolling hills.   And are in one of the safest cars on the road like us.   We could have driven for hours but we had a lunch appointment with a large plate of fish:

And a bottle of wine or two.


We made the most of not being in the Mini and having an ENORMOUS boot, plus some bargain prices.  None of those bottles were much over £5 each so it seemed rude not to really.  We also made a beeline for the Calais Vin first of all as it is our favourite wine store over there, and  for the lesser known Auchan rather than Euromarche or Cite Europe as Auchan is still very much the supermarket used by the French rather than it catering to us Brits over for the day.  Their fresh food section is enormous and if I had been able to find a trolley we would have been folding the back seats of the car down to get it all in.  Thankfully, for Mr B I was limited to a basket so stuck to just going beserk with the cheese and pate.

Oh and

chocolate, because you know, chocolate.

It also happened to be Valentine’s Day, and our lovely friend Martin’s birthday so all in all it turned out to be the perfect day.

I am thinking we should make this an annual event.  Anybody want to put in an order now for chocolate or wine?


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