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Bon Voyage!


Chapter 1
The ‘Eighty Kilometre’ Rule and Other Abnormalities of
Physics
‘Always ask about everything in your rented car.
As soon as you’ve got your rented car, ask the nearest person
what, and (more importantly) WHERE everything is. You may
find that – for some weird reason - your CD player is in the
boot, or that the seatbelts are in the pockets of the front
chairs.’
(Excerpt from the James Whitton diaries).
May 2003:
‘Where’s the car key?’
‘Locked in the house.’
‘Where’s the house key?’
‘With the car key!’
My wife Lindy and I looked at each other with a terrible
sinking feeling. This was the unpromising beginning of our
holiday as we prepared to leave for the airport.
It was a long way from being our first trip to Europe, and
the third with our two children, James (14) and Thomas (12).
This time we had decided to take my wife’s 66-year-old mother
Enid along with us as well. For her it was a dream come true,
although she’d taken quite a bit of persuading. She couldn't
believe that she wouldn't be a burden – bless her little floral
apron – but she eventually gave in to our sustained pressure
and was now eagerly (if a little anxiously) looking forward to
sharing the adventure. Little did any of us realise what a roller
coaster of an adventure it would turn out to be!
Locking the keys in the house before we’d even left must
have made the Aged Relative wonder what she’d let herself in
for! But as far as we were concerned, she couldn’t have been
in safer hands. We’d begun our preparations twelve months
earlier, with hundreds (well, dozens – I’m a little prone to
exaggeration, as you’ll see) of emails backwards and forwards
to sundry hotels and prospective hosts. We had the logistics of
managing the travel of five people driving around Europe for
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