Lost in Rouen

Somehow I have come to realise that I have inadvertently got into a drama. Steve is not good at directions. He likes to think he is, but he isn’t. I can go a way once and remember it forever, like I did with that tiny mountain road in Kos (not that there are many roads on Kos!) Steve, not so. He’s been down the motorway 3 times, which is the exact same amount of times I have. Yes, I’m a passenger, but I actually do quite good navigation/driving, and I don’t forget my way.

I had said he should stop at the hotel in Abbeville and go the rest of the way tomorrow. I had said I’d book the hotel. I had said it wasn’t important. I had said he’d ache. I had said he’d feel better for the break. He’s not me. I once did a Manchester-Dover-Rotterdam-Angouleme 26 hour drive, handing over the driving at the 25th hour. No, I’m not proud of it, but I still did it. I was a little wobbly, but that was all. And when I slept that afternoon, I snored louder than I ever had before.

Steve doesn’t like being lost; he doesn’t like road signs and he hates not being sure of where he is.

Me, if it got late in a foreign town, I’d find a hotel, no matter how flea-ridden (like some I’ve stayed in in Earl’s Court!) or expensive (the Heathrow Hilton is sooooo worth it when you’ve flown back from Cuba on Cubana Airlines and you have had endless delays and you have giardiasis) and bunk down, emerging a little more refreshed. I can find a hotel anywhere. I have an instinct. Plus, wherever there’s trains or planes or buses, there’s a hotel. It’s not illogical.

Steve manages to find a huge town where he can only find two hotels. How is this??!

I think I must have an innate travel-sense. In Casa, last year, when I turned up late at the airport, I found the nearest cheery looking taxi driver and told him I needed a mid-range hotel. I know he has his favourites and maybe commission, but he took me to a good place.

In Rotterdam, when we couldn’t find where we were supposed to go, I hail a taxi (find a tube station, find a taxi!) and get him to take me there. I memorise the route, leaving the boy and the man behind, then I get a taxi back, and I drive us in the car to where we are supposed to go. Taxi drivers know stuff. When the man and the boy get stressed and lost, I sail to the rescue. It doesn’t matter what language, I can always find a taxi and he can always find me a hotel.

Usually, I have to say, I am super-organised. I book hotels in advance. I print off maps. I memorise where they are, where you turn out of tube stations or train stations. I have addresses and names. I have back-up plans. I know when I will arrive and where. When I drove Abi and my mum to Italy, I had every detail planned. Where we’d stop for petrol. Where we’d eat. What time we’d get to the ferry. What time we’d arrive at the hotel. Where the hotel was. (I am a fan of choosing hotels on the outskirts of town – they’re easier to find and easier to park in – and they’re often signposted. Plus, you aren’t driving like a tourist through a foreign city, with all it’s one-way signs and so on) I had paid in advance. I knew what time we’d set off, when we’d pass into Germany and then Austria. It was pre-euro, so I had francs and deutsch marks and fennigs and lira. I knew how much the tolls were (all pre-internet too!) I had a map of the hotel in Germany, and I had a list of all the roads. I am the best (and worst) of my Gramps, who did everything the same as I did. I have vague recollections of when he’d make us leave in the middle of the night and when we’d sometimes need hotels impromptu, but in general he planned everything to the tiniest degree. I’m just as anal. Anal, maybe, or perhaps I should be more positive and say ‘survival of the fittest’. I travel, a lot, in countries where I don’t speak the lingo easily. And yet, I don’t get panicked. Planning takes the majority of the credit for that.

Still, I am resourceful. Like in Casa, where I was getting a bit blase about the whole ‘book in advance’ thing, and ended up going off a taxi-driver’s recommendation (excellent, I must say! – the hotel wasn’t listed, and it was a fancy ‘local’ hotel, not a chain. It was lush!)

Also, if I’m getting to a time when it’s going to be late, I stop. I check in somewhere. I never leave it too late. I always have a credit card and cash. I have learned from life!

Much of this seems to have by-passed Steve, who called me at 8:30 to say he needed to stop and he was lost. Then he got mad at me, as my directions got more and more obtuse to him, and more and more straightforward to me. Head for the town hall. All towns in France have signposted town halls. It’s what they do. But that panicked Steve. I found an Ibis online (good old Ibis!) and directed him… an hour later, he’s still lost. Luckily, instead of me having to drive out over there and sort it out for him, he found two English bikers on their way to Le Mans, staying, ironically, at the Ibis. Of all the hotels, in all the land, they had to be staying at the one I suggested….

Now he has a bed, he feels a bit better and is a bit more rational. He accused me of wanting to laugh at his plight. In reality, I wanted to get all Jeremy Kyle and say ‘you’re a grown man. You sort yourself out. It’s a huge town. Of course they’ll have hotels, and, by the way, why are you ringing me now to ask? Did you not think it might have been better to stop off about 6 and ask then? I could have booked ahead, but no! You had to leave it to the last minute, when you’re in a panic and then yell at me, like yelling will find you a hotel. You’re lucky I didn’t end the call and leave you to sleep in a bus shelter. Bah!’

I can’t wait til the morning when he tries to navigate his way out of Rouen. Hmmmm. I guess further irate phone calls are in my near future. I know now why I do things myself; it’s because I do them properly. Next time, he won’t go unsupervised, believe me!

But, in the background to all this, my car is falling apart and I’m waiting for an RAC man, sitting in my car wearing a niqab and a kaftan. Don’t even ask.

There is a God, and he’s pissing himself laughing. And then he’s being kind and sending along British bikers staying in Ibises to help Steve, and bringing me RAC men who don’t even question why I’m covered from head to toe, except for my flip-flops.

Luckily, Jake is at his aunt Deb’s house. Thank the lord for Deb. I was struggling juggling two plates. Three would have been ridiculous.

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