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Time to relax in ferry land luxury; WE asked readers to try their hand at travel writing, to pass on the holiday hints they had picked up on their travels. Here LINDA THORNICROFT from Redditch, Worcestershire, revels in the joy of the journey to and from her holiday destination.

NEXT time you're heading for France, avoid the airport delays and the boisterous crowds of "cash and Calais" day-trippers. Make the journeys part of your holiday.

After a leisurely two-hour drive down the A34 in the summer evening sunshine, we arrived in Portsmouth at 9pm with just enough time to take a walk around the town, stretch our legs and soak up the atmosphere.

Over a quiet drink we rather smugly conjectured where we might be now had we been heading for Dover. "Somewhere on the M25 - and stationary!" was the general consensus of opinion.

At 10pm we checked in at the docks. The first sight of the ship raised our excitement levels. Brittany Ferries' Quiberon sat awaiting our embarkation, lit up like a Christmas tree, its flags fluttering in the sea breeze.

At 10.30pm precisely the boarding operation took place with military precision. On board, however, any remaining vestige of a military nature immediately disappeared.

We had booked a de-luxe cabin for an extra pounds 25 and it proved to be worth every penny. It boasted supremely comfortable twin beds, shower room, television and a fridge stocked with beer, water and assorted soft drinks. A bowl of fruit and a stationery pack completed the impression that we had somehow stumbled into a four-star hotel by mistake.

Ironically enough, the eight-hour overnight crossing to St Malo is better than the one-hour Dover-Calais run for those who don't like sailing.

As one travelling companion explained: "I pack a drop of Scotch in my hand luggage, then I find my cabin, pour myself a generous nightcap and I'm asleep before the ship even lifts anchor. The next thing I know I'm being woken with fresh orange juice and croissants, it's 6 o'clock in the morning, the sun is shining and I'm in France!"

We hardier individuals decided to go up on the deck to wave England goodbye and then explore the ship. We had passed the cinema and we were hovering outside the amusement arcade when that unmistakable aroma of French cuisine lured us into the restaurant.

The mountainous buffet - a veritable riot of fish, cold meats and salads - left us in no doubt that we were now very definitely on French territory. Two hours and pounds 20-per-person later we made our way back to the cabin - our rather unsteady gait owing more to the excellent Chablis than to the ship's movement.

As I enveloped myself in my soft, fluffy quilt I thought of a friend who once said: "Holidays are all right - but I hate all that travelling."

I must remember to invite her along next year!

Do you fancy trying your hand at travel writing? Write to Travel Notes, Newsdesk, Sunday Mercury, 28 Colmore Circus, Birmingham B4 6AZ - we'll pay for anything we use.
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Author:Thornicroft, Linda
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Mar 28, 1999
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