Last week I took my car to France for the first time, taking the 21st century route through the tunnel. I was meeting marypcb in Lille, on her way back from 3GSM, and we were planning a day of meandering across Northern France and Belgium. It was lucky that I was taking the tunnel, as problems at Calais had severely restricted ferry traffic - and lorries were stacking up the M20 (adding an hour to my drive to Folkestone).
The tunnel is surprisingly easy to use. Just drive through the miles of toll booths and passport stations, queue for 20 minutes or so, and then file into the huge shuttle carrier wagons. Thirty-five minutes later you're driving off, and onto the autoroute. Driving on the right in a right-hand drive car isn't as complicated (or as dangerous) as I thought it would be, just wiggle the rear-view mirror slightly, and
Navigating French roads is easier than it used to be. Somewhere along the line, EU regulations have improved signage considerably. I only spent 15 minutes driving round Lille before I found the hotel, and the TGV station car park. marypcb's train from Cannes was dead on time, and he headed off to check in to our art deco-themed hotel. Dinner was in a restaurant in the old town gates, with a rather nifty dessert buffet.
The next morning we set off east, into Belgium. We ended up in Bruges for lunch, BD, and a nice long wander around the town (and a big bag or two full of Belgian beer). North then, towards Ostend and the Belgian coast. It's an interesting drive: following the coast road, dodging the coastal trams that wander from the French border to Ostend. Canals and sand dunes line the roads, and roundabouts are covered with models of early sand yachts.
We stocked up with tinned French foodstuffs in Dunkirk, before dashing to the tunnel and home. The ongoing ferry problems meant that it took over an hour to get onto a shuttle, but they also meant that the motorway home was pleasant enough.