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Spanish Secrets: Nightmare To A Dream - Phase Two

"As the car swerved sharply to the left, the carefully packed contents of the back seat slipped onto our dog, Jazz. Startled and confused, she clambered over the fallen items. With Melanie trying to calm her down, and Jazz trying to sit on my lap, it was time to stop...'' Craig and Melanie Briggs had a nightmare drive through France on the way to the land of their dreams, Spain.

From deep below the English Channel our train emerged. Local French time 8.00am. Within seconds of that train drawing to a halt, the carriages' large steel doors slid open. Cautiously we drove away.

We were soon on the main road, heading for Paris. On silky smooth tarmac our powerful V6 ate up the kilometres.

After an incident-filled start to the day, events finally seemed to be going our way. Even the weather was improving.

By 10.00am the sun had burnt through the clouds, revealing a beautiful cloudless spring day. Quiet, free flowing, country highways had brought us to within 10km of the French capital.

With each passing kilometre the traffic's density became increasingly heavier. Five kilometres north of Paris the traffic ground to a virtual standstill.

Repeating in my mind, like a scratched and jumping record, I could hear the girl at the Eurotunnel check-in desk asking: "You are aware it's a public holiday in France?"

Like a singing Siren of a Greek myth, the beautiful weather had lured every Parisian car owner onto the roads.

Over the following five hours, in the heat of the mid-day sun, we covered just 10km. Once through this giant car park, with our travel schedule in tatters, we continued south.

With half of our journey completed and dusk beckoning, we stopped for dinner just north of Bordeaux. An hour later, at 10.00pm, we continued south.

By now it was dark and had started to rain. The wet greasy windscreen fragmented the glaring lights of oncoming vehicles.

The long day’s drive was starting to take an effect on my concentration. My eye lids, as if stitched to my cheeks with elastic bands, were aching to close. It was time to stop and sleep.

We pulled off the main road into one of France’s many landscaped public service areas. The car was so tightly packed that we were unable to recline our seats. For an hour we sat upright like crash test dummies, listening to the pitapat of rain on the roof. With sleep seemingly impossible we decided to drive on.

It wasn't long before once again tiredness crept over me.

Falling asleep at the wheel is like freeze frame photography in reverse. The bend up ahead is 200 metres away, in the blink on an eye it's within 100 metres; a second later I'm tugging at the steering wheel to avoid a catastrophe.

As the car swerved sharply to the left, the carefully packed contents of the back seat slipped onto our dog, Jazz. Startled and confused she clambered over the fallen items. With Melanie trying to calm her down, and Jazz trying to sit on my lap, it was time to stop.

Once more sleep eluded us.

We drove on crossing the Spanish border at 2.00am. A third stop an hour later, finally gave our exhausted minds and bodies the brief interlude we'd been seeking.

After our short sleep, even the darkness of the early hours seemed a shade lighter. Within an hour and with sunrise still some hours away the dense darkness began to subdue.

Our computer-aided directions had proved invaluable. Not a single wrong turning throughout our mammoth journey, but even these had a sting in the tail.

We arrived at our Spanish destination at noon. The signpost into the village read Ferreira. After passing only two houses, a similar sign informed travellers they'd departed the village.

This was not the Ferreira we were seeking!

Two hours later, after driving up and down mountain tracks in the middle of nowhere, and with the car running on petrol fumes, we thankfully joined a main road.

Out came our trusted road atlas. By a miraculous piece of good fortune we found ourselves less than 50km from our real destination, Ferreira de Panton.

The journey had been tiring, arduous and at times dangerous, but we'd arrived safe and sound.

And knackered!

email address
craigandmel@msn.com



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