Travelling at Night

We recently drove up through France (Millau route) overnight. Why would we do such a crazy thing? Well because our little ones don’t really like the car very much so we decided to drive up when they would be at their sleepiest. It worked, they slept most of the way.

A couple of notable points about the journey though, which may be interesting for any of you who are thinking of nocturnal driving in France.

Generally there are no cats eyes on the motorway, no lighting for km after km between cities and limited use of rumble strips onto the hard shoulder. This does make travelling difficult if you are alone, combined with boredom, this could be potentially dangerous especially if it’s raining and your eyes get tired.

We left a rainy, grey south of France in daylight, up through the twisty, windy route of the Haut Languedoc & Midi-Pyrenees back through the Languedoc (yes it does this weird wraparound thing) and up to the Tarn. By the time we reached the home of Michelin at Clermont Ferrand the clouds had cleared a bit & the rain had stopped.

From this point onwards it’s basically cruising up to Paris with flat motoring surrounded by field after field or crops. This is the tedious bit of the drive & we usually break off around Orleans for petrol & a strong espresso. We arrived at ‘the usual’ services stop just after 10, thinking we would feed the babies their milk and have a little rest for half an hour, top up with coffee & fuel.

On arrival we found the cafe had closed (they are not 24 hours but the shop is). But, having seen us rock up with 2 tiddlers, the lovely lady at the checkout opened the cafe for us to give us a table whilst the staff cleaned around us. She then went off to clean the baby change room for us “comme c’est tout propre pour les petites”. Bless!

We refuelled & set off around Paris, sat nav decided to go on the blink at this point, leaving me to navigate gay Paris by night. Actually we’ve done it many times and we didn’t have any problems as we followed the signs for CDG airport to get us out to the A1.

We arrived at the Eurotunnel around 2.00am to find I’d booked us on the wrong day (yes I booked early hours of Saturday am not Sunday am - blonde moment!) £58 extra, so we poodled through to sit in a queue for customs & passport control. Normally the officials barely look at our passports but this time they wanted to look at all our faces, including the snoozing bambinos. Normally this would be easy…lower windows…job done. But not for us, we have fitted sun blinds so we have to undo these in order to show off their faces (remember it’s dark), guess what? They still couldn’t see if there was a likeness or not, so they eventually concluded they would have to come out of their warm box & look at them. By this point, with much door opening & closing activity they were no longer snoozing & were now screaming, having been woken from their slumber by some strange random. Er yes, they look like they did when they were 9 days old (not!).

So with noisy passengers we zoomed over to the loading area & tried to talk them back to sleep…no chance. ‘Out’ shouted the eldest one for half an hour until we’d boarded the train when hubby :slight_smile: sprung her from the car seat. More milk (no time for coffees unfortunately) and we were off. Half hour later arrived in Kent with 5km of petrol left in the car (yes, times have changed - it is cheaper to buy petrol in the UK than France).

We arrived in London at 3.30am. Not a bad journey through France and we’ll be doing it again sometime soon.

aww Stephen that sounds lovely, what a nice memory. We used to drive down to the South of France from Lancashire, my Dad used to make us a bed in the back of the car by building up the footwells with bedding (we used to go camping for 3 weeks in the summer). Now of course we would be wearing seatbelts sat bolt upright or in special car seats/boosters till age 20 or something. No wonder we didn’t complain too much in the car when we had all that freedom. We did used to wear our seatbelts but sideways whilst we slept.

oh Tracy that must be terrible! We can sometimes manage half an hour before serious vomiting other times the whole night without a problem. It’s our eldest and she was worse when I was in hospital, each time my hubby came to visit, she threw up everywhere so we linked it to stress at the time although it has happened in other non-stressful situations e.g. on the way to IKEA - I’m sure my hubby would argue that is in fact a stressful situation :slight_smile:
Since we moved her into her forward facing seat, she seems better but she has christened this seat at least 3 times too. The best option is travelling by night if its a journey any further than half hour and we now remember to always have a change of clothes, cleaning cloth, anti-bac spray and tonnes of babywipes in the car.

Car sick kids are a nightmare, my youngest suddenly developed it when he was 2 and a half, we can just about get to school but anything over 10 minutes forget it - and I’m not talking just feeling sick! We use NausiCalm available from the pharmacy and it is brilliant - you only need to give in 15 mins in advance so it works even for nipping into town. Mind you I had to beg for it, they offered me all sorts of homoeopathic remedies - some you even have to take the day before - get real, we need it just to go to the shops!

We used to like the scenic route, there’s a nice chateau called Manoir du Mortier on the route through Auvergne which we stayed in a couple of times, it has a pool too, perfect after a drive. Nowadays with car sick infants we try to get our journey over as fast as possible!

We regularly travel to Paris from our home in Lozere, joining the A75 at junction 38 and we’ve learned to avoid the tedious bit from Clermont Ferrand to Orleans, which I hate with a passion. After Clermont leave the A71 at the exit for Vichy, Gannat, St Pourcain, Ebreuil (it’s after the Volcans service station). This puts you briefly on the A719 direction Vichy, Gannat. Then take exit 14 towards Moulins and continue to follow the signs for Moulins. This will put you on the old N9, now the D2009 which then becomes the N79, Just before you get to Moulins take the N7 direction Nevers. You will soon find yourself on the A77 which you follow until it links with the A6, direction Paris. It sounds complicated, but it isn’t. We find the last lap to Paris on the A6 far less demanding for a tired driver than the section after Orleans when you merge with the A10 and A11. A lot of the route before the A77 is dual carriageway and we find we get to Paris just as quickly as we do via the A71 . In the daytime a lot of HGVs use this route which can occasionally be a pain. But at night this shouldn’t be a problem and a lot of the N7 is now dual carriageway. The A77, like the A75, is almost toll free (about 2 Euros I seem to remember) and the bit of the A71 from Clermont to Gannat costs 3.60 Euros so you save yourself a fair amount of cash in motorway tolls. There is also a lot less traffic. The A77 is a lovely motorway planted with a huge variety of trees which are all named so you can improve your knowledge of French tree names as you drive! And it’s anything but boring. When you’re not in a hurry this route is wonderful for tourism. Lots of places to stay, plenty of wine (St Pourcain for starters. Go to the cooperative), towns like Briare (Les Emaux de Briare and the famous canal bridge). We now take two days to get to Paris just so we can stop somewhere along the route!

I once forgot to apply the pushchair brake and it rolled back onto a dual carriageway. I got there in the nick of time and after that, they were either IN the pushchair or TIED to the side of it with reins. The demands for ‘out’ stopped quite quickly or more to the point, they were quite happy to get back in after walking for a bit as walking solo is no fun if you can’t chase the village cat…:slight_smile:

Hi Tracy

Yes I have that now, the eldest says “out” whenever she’s had enough of the pushchair & proceeds to run off. I tried the little backpack reins which worked for a while but now she wants to hold the handle of the reins & refuses to walk if I try to hold it. Luckily where we are is quite safe, I worry in shops when she ducks behind something & my heart drops as I shout panicky for her & she jumps up saying coo coo!

In our village she decides that she wants to go to the cafe & turns left whenever we go for a walk (the patron is her best friend as he gives her pain & glace (though not at the same time). It’s at this point I have a problem when she dives away from the pushchair as our village is hilly & it would roll away. The other problem in our village is when she darts after the cat (who also frequents the cafe) and I have to coax the cat into a safe place as well as the toddler. Now that is when I feel like I have 3 children. So as you can imagine, we’re well known in the village as is the cat!

Hi Suzanne,
I’ve only got 2 but I can assure it’s a lot easier when they are both in the push chair. Having one in a pushchair and a toddler on the loose leaves you in the quandary of whether to dive after the one on the loose and abandon the pushchair. It takes time and memory to remember the push chair has a brake!

Hi Anne-Marie

Three children on your own?? You were very brave! We are debating when is the right time for number 3 and at the moment with 2 in nappies - I’m not keen on another just yet. Besides I have a pushchair for 2 (Phil & Ted’s Explorer - it’s fantastic) but I don’t think I could manage 2 in a pushchair and 1 running off around London or even our petite village for that matter. So No3 can wait for now.
I’m considering flying back on my own once No1 reaches 2 years and has a seat of her own, but the thought is scary!

You know reading this reminds me of when my lads were little and I used to take the ferry with them alone :slight_smile: Whilst changing the third’s nappy, the 2 others set off all the alarms in the toilets ;-((((((( Capitain pas tres content hihihihihihi lol, they wrecked the cushion room whilst I fed number three and I even think that they ended up black and blue (not from me lol) but from falling over in the “safe cushion room” Today I probably could have bought charges againt the ferry company lol
However I really believe that taking the ferry is so much more relaxing than the rush of the eurotunnel, time to eat a nice hearty breakfast before starting the trip to Birmingham :-))))