Travelling with tinies – a book set in France

  • Book: Road to Rouen
  • Location: France
  • Author: Ben Hatch

Review Author: tripfiction



Ben Hatch, author of Are We Nearly There Yet? (the story of a family trip around Britain) hits France with his family and the result is Road To Rouen. His last odyssey around Britain clearly didn’t put him off taking a leap into the unknown once again, and we are treated to a delightfully idiosyncratic journey – part memoir, part travelogue – undertaken by members of the Hatch family, to wit Ben, Dinah, Phoebe and Charlie. This is the consummate Brat guide (as opposed to the more famous Bradt guide) to being on the road with children.

Any of you wavering about what you can and can’t do in the way of travel when you have young ones, need only to read this book as inspiration for what can be achieved, although it is not all plain sailing! From their home in Brighton the four of them set off to Normandy, heading South, returning via the Alps, and ending their trip in Paris and Disneyland (with a short unscheduled sidetrip to Pamplona). Experience vegetable growing in the Loire Valley via the “white knuckle spring onion ride” or baguette foraging in the banlieues (which is very tricky as the shops generally close for a very long lunch). Ben notes how they gravel everything in France (indeed they do, when you think about it) or, let the family be your guide in Fouras via the Wally Trolley, a Petit Train, ubiquitous across Europe for tourists to chug around places of interest – you know the sort, the blue-and-white land trains, fronted by miniature mock steam locomotives. (In fact, we at TripFiction have one such train cruising the aisles of our local shopping centre).

From the of the vegetable growing paradise that is the Loire, they head onto the Dordogne, ‘the fruit bowl of France’, where they visit a Prune Museum, go on to enjoy ruminations about Camembert, and check out the weirdoes in Bugarach. And still more to come – surfing and boarding in Biarritz and light aircraft manoeuvres in Megève. The family notches up at least 50 chateaux on this trip, and discovers that the French consume as much medication as the Japanese, indeed more than anyone else in Europe, because they are seemingly an unhappy bunch. And just read Ben’s parallels between the Stars in their Cars parade at Disney with North Korea’s parades of military hardware (not an obvious correlation but certainly feels familiar if you have had the Disney experience!). Or gain a sneaking respect for the Hatch family as they smuggle baguettes into Mickey’s Kingdom….

Finally, much of the travelogue is interspersed with Ben’s own personal and poignant memoirs of how he and Dinah got together, interwoven with memories of his Dad who passed away in 2007. A sense that Ben has, at times, struggled to live up to his Dad’s achievements (a bigwig at the BBC) how the vagaries of the publishing industry make for a capricious income source and a sad recognition that his Dad struggled within the family environment because work was such an overwhelming factor in his life. Some of this introspection, however, doesn’t always sit comfortably alongside the jocular nature of the travelogue and wry observations that pepper the prose.

We said it in our review of “Are We Nearly There Yet?” and we say it here: a map of the route would be a great addition!

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