Paula's Place

Paula's Place

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

France Part five - the last

This is now more parts than I had days on the trip, but this last day was eventful, rest easy this is the end of the story.   My plans had already gone out the window as it was so late when I eventually left Bar-le-Duc.   I now had to use the motorway all the way, and make decent time of it as well.   Fortunately being empty I could keep a pretty good steady speed up, and just had one quick stop to but fuel, for both Gloria and me, and to get rid of some of that coffee.

I had travelled all the way from London to St Etienne and most of the way back in a van, I had been walking around small provincial towns in a foreign country dressed as a woman, through all that I had not had a single contact with officialdom, I had not even had my passport checked between Britain and France, and other than at the ticket control nobody had shown any interest in what was in the back of this rather old, and not overly smart van.   Of course now I was in a hurry that all changed.   Leaving the last payage section of the Motorway there was a Police check point, specifically stopping and checking British vehicles heading for Calais.   Anything that they thought might be a suspicious was stopped and searched, so of course I was pulled over.   A smartly dressed middle aged woman, driving a van, on her own, if I was the Police I would have stopped me!

I had to wait while a couple of youngish lads in a BMW convertible in front of me were getting the full treatment, carpets up, tool kit spread out, everything was being checked including what looked like a pretty thorough personal search of the passengers.   I will be honest I was worried!   Although I had been treated well everywhere I had been I didn't know if I was breaking any sort of law, or how liberal minded these Gendarmes might be.   Well they were thorough, they were very polite with all the officers speaking decent English (again I was addressed as Madame until they had checked my passport and Driving documents then I was addressed as Madame G&*%$£n) the back of the van was checked, they looked under the seats, under the bonnet (hood for the Americans) and underneath the floor.   Went through all the documents and some bags I had in the back.   As I say they were thorough, polite and friendly, and I was saved the body search, I’m not sure who would have been most embarrassed.  I was then left to get on, with a wish for a pleasant journey home, (the lads in the BWM were still there when I left it looked as though the seats were about to be taken out).
My Sunglasses

Now I was really behind schedule, and it was a toss up as to whether to stop for some shopping.   I decided on a quick stop a mad dash around the supermarket, chuck it in the back and high tail it to the ferry port.   I was just in time to catch the ferry.   Off course I was checked through ticket control, then French border control wanted to check my passport, and then British border control wanted to check my passport.   Needless to say my passport and driving license and all my papers are in my male name, and show my title as Mr. while here I was fully made up, dressed as a smart middle aged business woman with all the appropriate jewellery and accessories.   The only slight query was the British Passport officer looked at my photo (which shows me with a beard!) and asked me to remove my sun glasses so he could see my face better – MY SUNGLASSES!

A ferry

I drove straight from the controls onto the ferry without any waiting as they had already started boarding while my passport was being checked, I certainly wasn't going to get changed now, I was just going to enjoy the crossing, spend some time and a little money in the Duty Free shop, and relax.   After all I only a short journey home from Dover, even taking it steady I could be back in the bosom of my family two hours after landing.

So much for my plans, all that journey – nothing, now I was stopped and searched again, by British customs.   I don’t know what they thought I was hiding, or whether they just wanted a closer look at me so they could have a laugh later, but once again all my bags were gone through, this time with the added shopping, under the bonnet behind the seats, again a pretty thorough search, and mercifully again I was saved from a body search! At last I left the port feeling as though I could use some of that duty free booze I had in the back, still not long now.   Or so I thought, now for the only time since I have had Gloria I am pulled over by the Police!   This time they just wanted check my documents, and by the way what’s in the back – NOTHING!   By now it was getting quite difficult to keep my cool, somehow I managed as I really didn't want to draw any more attention to myself than necessary, I eventually made it home over four hours after the ferry docked; and yes I did sit down and hit the duty free.

As it had been such a full and trying day I was more than happy to collapse into bed.   It was only the next day that the post outing blues hit me.   I always have such a good time when I go out that it is a real "downer" going back into drab, after an extended period exclusively as Paula the down was that much bigger.   I don't know whether I will have another opportunity like this but I do have the memories, now I wish I had more photos as well.
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