Rich has driven into and across Europe before, but for my first drive over to the continent, we decided to head to the Belgian Ardennes, an area that is very much off the radar of most British walkers, especially in winter. Having thought it a good idea to book a room at Dover’s Premier Inn, and then get an early ferry the following morning, we realised that after no sleep we may as well have just kept on going to the B&B that we’d booked for the second night. Still, we enjoyed our ferry fry-up, and finding our way out of Dunkirk once we’d landed was surprisingly easy, probably because as always, I’d insisted that every part of the journey be pre-programmed into Dervla, our trusty satnav.

As we’d anticipated being knackered and not wanting to go out for dinner, we’d found a place to stay that had a self-catering kitchen, so stopped off at what was definitely the biggest supermarket I’ve yet to visit – the L.Eclert just outside Bailleul, to buy a pre-cooked chicken and some veggies. With fatigue levels increasing, we then decided to try and have a snooze in the supermarket carpark before checking in to the B&B, which meant that we attracted the attention of the security guards, and they insisted on driving past us again and again and giving us the evils.

We eventually found our base for the night, having driven past it a few times first because it was called something different to the name given on the website, and because typically, a migraine had started to set in. Virginie’s B&B lies only a few miles from the border with France, in a good walking area, and provided the peace and quiet that by then we were craving. Our room was called ‘Chicoree’ and was absolutely gorgeous, with its own entrance hall, wet room, and separate loo. There are even bee hives and free range chickens in the garden. We went straight to bed for a nap when we arrived, and fortunately the tryptan kicked in so that I could enjoy dinner in the double level lounge and dining area.

Fortunately sleep also happened that night despite the nap, but in the early hours I felt a sudden pressure on the end of my bed. We were in a twin room, and I knew it wasn’t Rich, so immediately went into warrior mode, pulled my legs up to my chest ready to kick out, and as I did so turned the lamp on so that I could get a decent aim, only to find that there was a small bundle of black fluff purring at me, and making its way up the bed in an effort to get beneath the covers. We’d opened the bathroom window as we like cool rooms, so this little puss cat had come exploring. Had it wanted to curl up and go to sleep I’d have let it stay, but it kept head butting me and purring so loudly, that I had to put it back out of the window. Needless to say, a few hours later it came back, and had just settled down on my bed when it heard Rich stir and decided that it had to investigate Rich and his bed at that very moment. Poor Rich screamed and shot out of bed when the cat landed on him! Of course it then wanted to head butt Rich so I had to shove it back out of the window, and hope that it would leave us in peace until the morning.

Over a fabulous continental breakfast (I’d bought my own gluten free bread – you learn to come prepared when you can’t eat certain things), we told Virginie that we’d met her cat in the night, and that it was very cuddly, only for her to announce that she didn’t have a cat. Turns out that it had come from a nearby farm, and must have sensed that there was at least one cat lover (me) in the room. It made staying in a lovely B&B all the more special to be honest though, and we’d definitely return, even if only for the glorious anticipation of the cat creeping back in. As we can’t keep a pooty at home because of Rich’s restricted airway and allergies, I need to get my cat fixes where I can.

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