…but we’re homeward bound
The journey back, bags and all, can be painfree if you plan it well, says Paul Howard
Atrip to France is always a pleasure, yet it’s a bittersweet one if the purpose is to empty your French house before the new owners move in. First, the hire of the inevitable white van; then a 1,000-mile return journey squeezed into a couple of days; and, in between, the packing. Even the most organised among us might balk at the prospect.
But, needing to take home our solid-oak dining table, the oh-soFrench sideboard and a last consignment of that delicious local wine, my father-in-law and I decided to do it ourselves. The rationale was simple: no need to obtain quotes from half a dozen removals firms, or to decide in advance what should be brought back and what left behind. How hard could it be to spend a long weekend driving through France and putting half-a-dozen boxes and a sofa into a van?
The answer, initially, was not very hard at all. Depite the stag party on the ferry that kept us awake all night, our spirits were high. After a few hours on an almost empty autoroute we were smugly enjoying our decision to go it alone.
Our mood survived the disappointment of the keenly anticipated steak frites lunch at a Les Routiers establishment turning out to be a lukewarm burger and oven chips. It even survived a 30-minute delay due to the classic navigational error of following road signs instead of the map. With the rain giving way to glorious sunshine as we reached the Quercy region, between Cahors and Montauban, we were positively upbeat.
Then we remembered we had only 16 hours before starting our return journey — and I, for one, planned on sleeping for a good number of those.
What had started as an adventure began to resemble a chore. And it became positively scary on the way home, when we discovered the hazards of overtaking in a right-hand-drive van with 100,000 miles on the clock and packed to the gunnels.
In the end, our stint of playing at Howard’s end: Paul (right) is seen off by a couple of his French neighbours removals was worth it – but I needed to unload the ship and, if wouldn’t recommend it for necessary, to receive customs everyone. Fortunately, there are clearance – a process that can other options, even if there is no also incur extra costs. “You may single right answer for every have to pay for renting the possible move. container for longer or pay a port
If you’re moving back to Britain storage fee. Generally speaking, from further afield than France, people should anticipate delivery shipping your goods may be the within 10 days of the ETA.” only option — but one not short of Closer to home, several potential pitfalls. “People are given options are available. The an ETA for the ship’s arrival and simplest one, although often the expect their stuff to arrive at their most costly, is to phone a British house on the same day,” says Grant removals firm and book it for a Bishop, international director for specific date. “It’s no different to Bishop’s Move. long-distance removals in this But that overlooks the time country,” says Bishop. “There’s just a ferry in the middle.”
Calculating the amount of stuff you have is simple. “Most companies have a ‘contents of home’ form on their website, which a customer fills in. A quote is based on that,” says Bishop, although if there are a lot of belongings, some firms may insist on seeing the property.
Another alternative is to book a return load or a part load. If you’re flexible about timing, this takes into account the fact that removals lorries criss-cross the Continent on a regular basis. At a certain time, one will pass close enough for you to be able to cadge a ride.
“But be wary of part loads that require transferring between vehicles or companies that require storage in a depot,” Bishop warns. This not only increases re-handling and breakage, but also makes your personal belongings anonymous. “The guys who pack it know what’s inside and care about delivering it safely. If it’s passed on to someone else, it just becomes a box.”