So many exciting and varied happenings in the past weeks and I haven't been near the computer to keep everyone updated.
On Saturday the 7th of February Austin and I went to the airport to meet Mom (Wendy), Dad and Bronwen (my sister). They arrived in the evening and it seemed to take forever for them to come through the barrier but eventually I saw them and it was such an amazing family reunion.
On Sunday we went to look at a car that I had already found that I thought would be okay for them to drive around in, I don't have a drivers licence and what I know about cars would fit on the head of a pin but I think I did okay. So we drove back to the flat in the 'new' second hand car, a Vauxhall Zafira, a lovely seven seater MPV (multi purpose vehicle - for any one like me, who didn't know what that stood for)
Early Monday morning, Mom, Dad and I set off on the long drive. I really expected a lot of Wendy, she had to cope by driving through the London morning rush hour traffic to get to Folkestone to catch the Euro Tunnel train. She was fantastic, we just have to get used to the roundabouts which you certainly don't get in South Africa.
The train journey is amazing, you drive onto the train in your car and once on you can get out of the car and 45 minutes later you are in France. Such a fantastic experience. We then had the long 5 hour drive to Rennes in Brittany where we were staying the night. The French roads are wonderful, so well maintained and boy do they drive fast, average speeds of 160 - 180 kms.
We finally got to the hotel at 9:00 at night and I think I had exhausted Wendy.
Next morning it was only an hours drive to Kerfourn, a small village outside of Pontivy, Brittany where they are going to live for the next 6 months.
Now the people we are renting the house from live in the UK and are very sweet, they had come over to see that everything was okay and to show us how stuff worked etc, but we got to the house at 10:30 in the morning and they had told us they had a long drive ahead of them so they would have to leave soon. They only finally left at 6:00 that night so we spent most of the day sitting around like spare parts. The house is a lovely old stone Breton cottage, but it is awfully cold. I will eventually get some photos loaded to show everyone but that will come later.
One day to settle in and then Wendy and I had to drive to Paris to pick the cats up from the airport.
I have to tell you now that so far I hate Paris. It was a 5 hour drive which went very well until we got to Paris at 6:00 in the evening and had to get to the hotel. It is rush hour traffic and the sat nav directs you on to the 'quickest' route that it can find, regardless of where you have to drive. Driving through the outskirts of the city and through all the traffic was a nightmare and I was just plain terrified. I got to see the Eiffel tower in the distance ( big deal) and we got an extended tour of the airport terminal before we got to the hotel.
The hotels in France are strange, they seem to think that one towel will suffice for two people, and I managed to flood the bathroom when I took a shower.
Next morning we had to find our way to the cargo section of the airport, thanks to the sat nav and some confusing French signs we visited one roundabout 3 times but finally found the right building with a sign that you would need a magnifying glass to see. Up the flight of stairs and the impatient wait, only to be told that we have to go to Customs. So off we set in the car down the road, find the right building but no parking so I set off by myself to try and find the office, lots of walking up and down corridors, awkward French/English conversations and I was still lost. It took Wendy coming to find me before she found the office, I swear it wasn't there when I walked past it two or three times :-)
Now back to the cargo office and the paper work is finally done and down the stairs to a tiny cubicle where we can see the boxes with our kitties in. They must have been terrified, the boxes were on the floor in a big warehouse with a fork lift trundling past every couple of minutes. Get the idiots attention and show him all the papers which he has to stamp and get told to wait outside and he will bring them out, 10 minutes later I go storming back in there and he is wandering around doing something else. I eventually got him to carry them out to the car and we were ready to set off. We arrived there at 8:45 and finally left at 11:20. So we made the trip back with Sasha moaning at us the whole time and the other 3 looking at us with big terrified eyes.
Poor kitties, what a journey they have had. On the plane from Cape Town, land at Johannesburg then on to Amsterdam where they had to be inspected by a vet, then another plane trip to Paris and a 5 hour car journey. When we finally got them to the house we opened the doors of the boxes and they snuck out , went to the toilet and found a place to hide. It is so much colder in France than Cape Town (of course it would be - different climates) that they have spent most of the last week sleeping inside the beds and only surfacing for food and toilet trips.
Wendy and I had to then sit down and make bears for the Hugglets show this Sunday, we stitched our little fingers to the bone and made some beautiful new bears, all ready for their debut at the show.
We left the house early this morning to drive to London. Leaving Dad in charge of 4 recovering kitties who I think are going to get cabin-fever soon and drive him mad by making wild dashes for the open doors. All the 'experts' seem to say that you need to keep them inside for at least the first two or three weeks in a new house. I don't know how long we will manage but it will be interesting.
So a 6 hour journey on the roads and a desperate last few mile dash to make the cut off time for the train and we were back on the euro train ( my new favourite way to travel). In France on the freeways there are service stations and stop areas virtually every 20 kms or so and you get spoilt and used to it very quickly. So when we disembark from the train we decide to stop at the first service station and fill up on petrol and have a toilet break. Drive for awhile and see a sign but when we drive off the main road to stop we can't see anything and there are no more signs so we think we have made a wrong turn and head back to the freeway and decide to stop at the next area, well we still haven't found one. So if you need to buy petrol or go to the toilet between Folkestone and London you can forget it. Don't drink any water and hope that your car is fuel efficient. Almost at London and we would be driving around the outskirts when we turn left instead on right and the sat nav does the heart stopping 'recalculating route' thing and sends us through London, on a Friday afternoon at 3:00 in heavy traffic. We got an interesting tour of the streets of London but I hope we never have to repeat the journey because it was bloody terrifying.
Two major cities and we get to see them while driving through mad traffic and hoping that we make it in one piece. We certainly live interesting lives. Finally got to the flat at 3:30 and just dropped from exhaustion, and I am sure you must be just as tired after reading such a mammoth blog.