Weather: Dry but overcast. Whilst driving: max 8 degrees, min 4 degrees.
Our alarms were set for a time probably not chosen by many households in the UK on a Sunday morning and an hour and a half later Bertie headed out into the dark, fuelled by the excitement of his first long trip since he rushed us home in the middle of March 2020.
I was also being kept alert by excitement, rather than by a sufficiency of sleep. Two significant things have occurred since we last crossed the Channel to France: 1) Brexit has come into effect (more on which later); and 2) Covid has created extra border requirements.
The latter issue had been the thief of sleep, as within 24 hours of travel we needed to take a Covid test, then to load three documents (Covid result certificate; Sworn Health Declaration; and Covid Vaccination Pass) onto the Eurotunnel website for approval pre-travel, with the warning that if we didn't do that, then we would be subject to delays upon arrival at the Eurotunnel terminal. Goodness, what a trial of a succession of technical issues! I got there in the end, but far later into the night than I would have chosen.
Why so late? Well: 1) as the Covid Test* had to be taken within 24 hours of travel, we decided to hedge against delays by taking it late on Saturday night; and 2) we'd post-dated our Health Declarations for the date of travel, and given the nature of the document it seemed ill-advised to upload it too far in advance.
It turned out that it was worth the pain of getting those documents uploaded, as we sailed through Check-in and Border Control (once we finally reached the front of the queue for each!) whereas those in front of us were spending an age at each, handing over various pieces of paper that weren't requested from us.
Whilst each wait seemed interminable at the time, we were clearly just being impatient, as we were on a moving shuttle less than an hour after we pulled off the M20, and two hours before our booked crossing**. The earlier arrival in France was a massive bonus as (of course) it gave us two more hours of daylight to travel south, and the further we could get on a Sunday (very little traffic; no lorries) the better. As it turned out we had more daylight than we needed, arriving in Surville at around 1730.
It had been a long old day for Bertie who, in the UK, only had a brief stop for fuel and a few pauses in various queues at Eurotunnel. Then, after his rest on the train, he sped us south through France with just a couple of micro-pauses for a change of driver.
It had, of course, been a long day for us too, but I still managed to take myself out into the bitter cold on arrival for a power-walk around the village. Then it was back to Bertie to try to concoct something for tea. This is where the significance of Brexit came into play, as we are now not permitted to carry a whole list of foodstuffs into Europe. Our fridge was thus somewhat bare, and shops in France aren't open on a Sunday. What I thought at the point of preparation was probably the worst excuse for a meal I'd ever served to Mick, actually turned out to be perfectly acceptable.
Our continuing mission is to get to the south of Spain as fast as we reasonably can, so let's see where we get to tomorrow.
(*What a nonsense the pre-travel Covid test is! We each took a lateral flow test at home, uploaded a photo of the result to the company that we'd bought them from, and received our travel certificates back within 30 seconds. That company had no knowledge as to whether the swabs had been near any nostrils, whether ours or anyone else's.
**In the few days between me first looking at Eurotunnel prices and being able to book, the prices rocketed - unsurprising in retrospect as lots of people had probably spent the previous month desperate to travel to France. We'd wanted to travel on Saturday, but the earliest reasonably priced crossing available was at 1420 on Sunday. We thus employed our usual strategy of arriving early and hoping to be offered an earlier crossing at no extra charge. It's a strategy that's only ever failed once, at the end of August one year when the Chunnel was the busiest I've ever seen it.)