During the course of the holiday I have been trying to read "The Lost Symb*l" by Dan Brown. It is a very thick book and very heavy going and in my room at the top of the van it has been keeping me company at night - not sure whether it has been an aid to the fact that I have been sleeping very soundly (apparent from the occasional wrestling matches with the windows and blinds when I have been trying to open/close them at the dead of night - last night I was having a particularly energetic battle trying to open the window when E. turned on all the lights thinking someone was tiring to break into the van...) but in any event, it is heavy enough to make a good door stop although will need to think carefully about whether to take it to Ireland next week.
After an early wake up call with E thinking there were burglars we were all feeling a little groggy as we woke up in good time for our train back to UK at 9:50. After our usual breakfast we went through the usual de-coupling procedures and were soon on our way back to the Chunnel. By contrast to the chaos in Kent due to Operation Stack you would not have known that there were any problems on the French side - certainly no long queues of lorries or impatient drivers. Check in was very smooth - simply entering our reference code and having our gas bottle checked (to ensure properly closed) and we were in place for our 9:50am departure in good time. However, for reasons not explained the 9:50 was cancelled and we eventually boarded the 10:20 which got us to Folkestone at around 10am (UK time).Fortunately the M20 was open London bound so we set off to Harrietsham with a birds eye view of the car park for lorries that the Southbound lane had been turned into by Operation Stack. I have not seen so many lorries and I would not have envied being a lorry driver at all.
We reached Harrietsham just before 11am and finally met Simon who had provided the van. He was a nice chap who apparently worked with Aston Martin on their racing team and had a small side-line in hiring out camper vans. He had a fleet of three but told us he was adding a brand new van next year which would have a trailer (for Smart cars presumably).
The Roller Team 746 was an excellent van. Whilst we could have made do with a 4 berth it was great to have a lot of space. I think if we do this again we will be a little less ambitious on the amount of driving we do as the route maps indicative driving times were no doubt for cars rather than pantechnicons and it would have been nice to have time to explore the places we stayed in more detail. I would also probably take proper BBQ equipment next time but it was a great trip and the kids seemed to have enjoyed it which was the main thing.
We were met by dad at the van hire centre and we managed to pile everything into his car for the drive home. On the way we stopped at the Roebuck to re-visit the scene of the near miss at the beginning of our adventures but it had not started serving Lunch so we carried onto Frankies in Staplehurst where once again enjoyed the pulled pork and I also bought a keg or beer for the party on Sunday. After we got back to Maidstone we caught up with my Sister's family and the kids played with N. and J and we had a take away from the Coxheath curry house.