Time to go, we’ve been ticking through the ‘to do’ list & all is going to plan. Angie is fit and well now, the new kitchen’s fitted, the new boiler is up running, the old gas fire/back boiler is out, walls plastered (thanks Andy) and papered, Angie’s sorted the garden looks a lot tidier and manageable. I’ve sorted the boot out too, as there were many things in there we just haven’t used in the past 8 months, if we can go 8 months with-out them, I’m just not going to need them am I ? I just can’t think of a situation where I’ll need a 3 foot crow bar, a drill pump and 4 bottles of trigger action ‘Elbow grease’ cleaner. So I reckon I’ve shaved 40kg of the payload, that should help with the front end traction. We also have 2 new front tyres (Charlie), 1 new rear, (Frankie) and 2 clean MOT’s. I’ve lost the spare wheel, it’s now on the front, as we only really needed it for Morocco, if (when) we decide to go back to Morocco, or out-side Europe, it will go back on, I just don’t trust the blow-n-go repair kit. So that’s it, time to go south and catch the Chunnel, into France but this time turn left, with a vague plan of reaching the very top of Norway by end of July. France will have to wait another year, as will Belgium and most of Germany too, but they will still be there when we want them, regardless of the outcome of the ‘referendum’ on 23 of June. We’ve just one stop to make first, to spend the day with our son Matti in London, so we chose a stop close to a train station, Abby Wood Camp Site (n51.48702, e0.11937). As a non caravan club member it’s £35 pn. which is a bit steep, but it’s very convenient for the train station, which takes you straight into London and I have to admit, it is a top quality site. It was great to see him again and we spent the day mostly chatting in a pub & then went to eat at the restaurant he works in…the food was terrific.
I saw a picture of Canterbury Cathedral a long time ago and remember thinking it looked like a great place to visit, steeped in history and importance, central to the Church of England. Canterbury city also looked equally attractive and very quintessentially English. Well to cut a long story short, the Cathedral was closed for a funeral & the town, though very ‘English’ was brimming with French tourists over here for the fashions (and prices) of Primark. But to be fair, some parts of Canterbury do retain some ‘Englishness’. The sun shone & the Weatherspoons directory did us proud, chips and ale were both consumed in abundance. The Cathedral will have to wait for another day, but I’m sure it will still be there. Hats off to Canterbury park-n-ride (n51.26232, e1.10247 on New Dover Rd.) , £3 for a night’s stopover including 2 bus tickets into the City return, that’s motorhome tourist friendly! I even had just enough time to pay off the Dartford toll charge whilst on the bus with ‘Free WiFi’ into the city, top marks Canterbury council, we will be back, just let us know when the Cathedral’s open please.
And so, onto the Chunnel at Folkestone, the last bit of English tarmac for a few thousand miles. The last bag of proper chips (for all we know) and the last pint of hand pulled ale (deep sigh), however will we cope?
If you’ve never used the Chunnel you are in for a pleasant surprise, quick, easy and almost the same cost as the ferry, unless you’ve a discount for the ferry, or you just can’t bear to be on a train or underground, I can’t imagine anyone wanting to use the ferry. Just drive up at your allotted time, drive onto the train & drive off the other end, straight onto the French motorway system and away into mainland Europe. I still find it amazing that you can drive across Europe without getting stopped, all the way to Turkey or Gibraltar or even northern Norway without visa’s or permission. But I have noticed the number plate recognition cameras above the motorway lanes, so I guess ‘Big brother’ or Interpol are watching…somewhere.
So we skipped east across the northern bit of France, all of a sudden we are in Antwerp, Belgium on an Aire just outside the centre (n51.18983 e4.40074) £10.50 pn EHU extra. it was late in the day when we arrived, so we opt for 2 nights. The tram stop is just down the road, straight into Antwerp, £6 each, for a day pass but we didn’t know that because we were too busy running for the tram waiting at the stop on the way in, we just jumped on and hoped the inspector didn’t get on, he didn’t and we did buy the proper ‘all day ticket’ for the journey home. It reminded us of a tram journey we took in Prague, we had read of the ‘Tram Police’ in plain clothes who, spontaneously inspect everyone’s ticket, then two blokes got on at one of the stops, flashed some I.D. and wanted to check tickets, we had the correct ticket for that trip, but a family in front of us didn’t and were summarily marched off the tram and down to the local police station. It was reported that the fines were heavy and if you didn’t have the funds, a custodial sentence could be imposed, all for a £5 ticket, it’s a good deterrent for a system which relies mainly on honour.
The rain threatened to spoil most the day walking around this very cosmopolitan city, with museums too numerous to mention, art exhibitions and dozens of chocolate shops, oversized statues of the important ones, long gone, it’s nice enough don’t get me wrong, but it doesn’t impress, it doesn’t seem to have anything unique. Apart from the odd flag and far too many chocolate shops, you could be in any city. On the ‘up’ side I did find a pint of Guinness and a bag of chips.
So now we push on to Munster & Hamburg, then into Denmark. I’m grabbing free WiFi where I can so appologies for the delays in posts.