Our autumn plans had been inspired by our quick visit to Switzerland earlier this year. This time we wanted to spend a few weeks in Switzerland with possibly some time in Austria and Germany.
Preparing for our trip meant spending some time fixing various bits and pieces on Bertie (I think that’ll be another post) and making sure Paul’s Dad was ok. He’d recently spent another couple of weeks in hospital and has a list of pills and potions as long as your arm. Hopefully a medication review will reduce the brain-ache of managing so many medicines.
I visited my Dad in his nursing home, wishing him a Happy Birthday and we had dinner with my uncle whose 60th birthday fell the day before Dad’s 73rd. Goodbyes to family have a whole new dimension now.
Family duties complete we were then off for the bank holiday weekend, spending time with friends at a Land Rover event. We made a motley collection of vans, caravans and tents all camping in a big rally field along with trailers carrying Land Rovers for competing in various events.
Heading for the ferry
On Bank Holiday Monday we spent the morning supporting friends who were competing in the time trial. Luckily this finished in good time so we even got to watch the final trophies being handed out before heading off to the other side of the country.
The sat nav picked an odd route from our rally field near Hay on Wye across country but eventually we joined up with the M40 and started our route south and east. We were lucky with the traffic on a bank holiday Monday but we eventually hit heavy traffic on the M20. It was getting dark by the time we pulled up to Canterbury park and ride for our overnight stop.
Over the channel
The following morning we were up bright and early. We had a few more things to pick up from the supermarket before heading onto the ferry. Luckily there is a big Tesco on the way into Dover and we quickly stopped, topped back up with fuel and shopped for one or two essentials (marzipan and moisturiser??). I also had a couple of letters to post and typically had left them to the last minute.
Minutes later we were in the queue at the ferry terminal. As we approached the French immigration area I realised I hadn’t input my API (Advance Passenger Information), a mild panic ensued as I tried to hastily type it in on my phone and crossed my fingers that the required ’24 hours in advance’ was just a safeguard. It seems that it doesn’t matter how late it gets input as we had no issues getting through immigration, customs or the P&O desk before we were on our way.
It’s been a while since we last took a ferry on this route but nothing had really changed and it is still as dull an experience as ever. We whiled away the hour and a half with a few word games and a wander round the decks but were happy to get off and be moving under our own steam again. I definitely prefer the ease of the tunnel but it was so much more expensive.
Stopover in Belgium
Actually we were heading for Luxembourg but we didn’t get that far. It may have seem as though we had an early start but a 10am ferry combined with gaining an hour meant we didn’t arrive until lunch time. We made good progress through northern France but hit some long delays at the border between France and Belgium and combined with the fairly horrible Belgian roads I wasn’t surprised when Paul asked me to find an overnight stop.
This time I found us an aire in Floreffe. It was about 10k off our route and easy to find with just the final few traffic calming measures in Floreffe holding us up – as I suppose they are meant to. We parked up facing towards what we thought was a canal but is actually the ‘navigable river’ Sambre and watched huge barges float past, one of which had a crane and a small car on board.
The aire had a flot bleu where we paid for our parking ticket (5 euros) and services (2 euros). We had long overdue hot showers and I washed the dust of the weekend out of my hair. We were sufficiently refreshed to have a wander along the canal where bats flitted in the twilight, and up through the village to take a peek at the outside of the huge abbey which is now the local school. I assume the Floreffe beer is not part of the curriculum.
As we laid in bed that night we could hear the noise of the road behind us. It didn’t seem like a major road but carried plenty of traffic. We wondered if it would keep us awake but that was the last thing we remembered as we were both fast asleep within minutes. The following morning the road noise started at about 6am but somehow we managed to get back to sleep. I think we were both still catching up from the weekend.