Stage two of my European adventure began really with my total failure to find the parking lot at Calais ferry port and ending up in a suburb of Calais. Luckily I’d shared my location with my passenger on WhatsApp and she managed to find me without too much difficulty. Apart from that, driving on the opposite side didn’t seem to cause me too many problems, I was very glad to have a supportive passenger though.
I am already a fan of using BlaBla car. My first experience was great; my passenger was very pleasant and a great help navigating the French roads as well as keeping me on the straight and narrow regarding speed limits. I’m terrible for getting sleepy on the road but we made nearly made it to the Netherlands before I had to stop – I’m sure my blood congeals or something if I don’t move around enough.
We slogged it out with a couple more stops and made it to Bremen by about half past seven. By now I’d realised that, in an effort to be more spontaneous, I was actually a day early for my friend so I decided to stay in Bremen. I found a campsite using park4night and although I had a little bit of trouble explaining myself to the elderly gentleman on the gate I settled in for the night.
The campsite was OK, there were pictures on the toilets which I liked a lot. It cost me about €14 and a €5 deposit for the shower room key which was returnable. I can already feel that my €20 a day budget is going to go nowhere but I’ll soldier on an live on lentils for the rest of the year if necessary. For some reason they wanted me out of the campsite by 8 o’clock in the morning and then when I questioned it I think they said 7. I really must brush up/acquire some language skills at some point in my life, I believe it might make things more clear. I wanted to get a swim in so I found a Freibad that opened at 8 and then I thought I could explore Bremen and get some groceries in before I headed up to my friends in Bremerhaven…
WRONG. I hadn’t realised that Germany still shuts on the day of rest. I had a lovely swim in the Freibad in Weyhe and then went for a wander around Kirchweyhe. Absolutely nothing was open apart from the occasional cafe and many pubs which, disappointingly, are no good at all when on a driving trip. It was a nice enough little town but I couldn’t even find anywhere to buy milk so I headed back to my van and made myself a black coffee before heading up to Bremerhaven in the hope that I’d find something there.
No joy. I knew I was onto a loser when IKEA was shut. I didn’t think that ever happened. I was starting to feel a bit under the weather by this time so I stopped at a trusty McDonalds and bought a McMuffin at 3 o’clock in the afternoon, just for the novelty value, which was another error in my day. I chilled in the car park for a while and then found myself a leafy suburb for my afternoon nap. I finally made it up to Sieverner See for about 6:30 in the evening.
Yesterday afternoon I loaded up my van and set of on what is to be my first European adventure on the roads. My ferry is due to leave now but rather than leaving super early this morning I chose to drive down last night so I could be fresh for my first European drive. As a rookie van dweller I’m only really on a kind of reconnaissance mission to see how I fare on my own abroad. If this is successful I’m hoping to buy a white van and convert it – I love my Nemo Romahome but it really is tiny and not particularly practical for general use – I like to have more than one passenger seat perhaps a little more storage.
I found a lovely curry house using the app park4night, The Swingate In & Namaste Dover. This app excites me with it’s promises of all sorts of interesting free stays across Europe. This particular site offered free overnight parking as long as a meal was purchased in the restaurant which was more than good for me. The menu was great and I had a lovely chicken biryani, half of which is in my cool box for lunch.
So this morning I got up early in order to practise my van ablution routine which is still not as slick as I’d like. I thought I’d better make a bit of an effort as I’ve arranged to pick up a passenger in Calais through BlaBla car. This is new to me and I’m a bit apprehensive as it’s my first attempt at driving in Europe but I thought I’d take the plunge. My passenger is a 22 year old French psychology student so what could go wrong apart from the fact that I’ve already managed to miss my original ferry by going the wrong way and then messing around filling up my car and buying reflective jackets. I might just have also forgotten that France is an hour ahead so I’ve had to change her pickup time to 1200 rather than 1100, hopefully she is an understanding psychologist.
I’m hoping to make it all the way up to Sieverner See, near Bremerhaven in Germany. An old work colleague of mine moved over there and adopted an 8 year old girl who I am very excited to meet. It’s a long way and I do like a nap so it’s probably luck I have company. Here goes…
I love Fridays, even when I’m working on a Saturday – there is just something good about knowing that the weekend is upon us. This one is particularly good because, although I did foolishly agree to do a shift on Sunday, after that I have a whole 5 days off. I’ve managed to get a good deal on a first class train ticket from London to the North East on Sunday evening and I fully intend to enjoy the ride.
I’ve only recently discovered the joys of travelling first class, until recently I’d always thought it to be way too extravagant, and I really love it. I love the bigger seats and tables, the fact that you can sit by yourself by a window with enough space on a table and a power socket and of course I really love that you are provided with one meal and never ending inappropriate snacks with your tea or coffee. I only book these tickets if they’re less than £10 more than standard class but as I usually travel late at night they often come up.
The discovery of reasonably priced first class tickets has also slightly reduced the irritation that I have with the general state of the rail service in the UK. I can’t count the times that I have run for a train at the end of a busy week to find that all of the reservations have been cancelled and I’ve had to spend almost the whole journey in the doorway of a carriage. I may be shallow but the comfy seats and snacks further up the train go a long way to appease me for years of mild Friday evening rage.
For my week off I am going to drive up from my North Eastern home to Central Scotland which is where I grew up. I am looking forward to this as it’s a lovely part of the country and will be staying with one of my oldest friends. I will travel up on Monday and hopefully visit a lot of old haunts through the week – I miss the Scottish scenery.
The top of Dumyat, Stirlingshire.
Wish this could be my maiden voyage with the new mini camper but my trusty VW will do the trick. Not a particularly spectacular roadtrip but a roadtrip none the less. I’ve spent most of my time on trains recently so I need to rekindle my love of driving before my eagerly anticipated adventures. Onwards and upwards.
This vanlife trend has recently begun to appeal to me again. I have a job that I like, a home that I look forward to arriving at and a group of people that generally make me happy but for some reason I still feel the same pull to travel that I’ve had ever since I was young. This is perhaps why I’ve decided to try road travel on a very careful and small scale by acquiring a Romahome R10. While not one of my more considered decisions, now that I have made it I am very excited. My amazing converted van of the future is still looming with my next change of career but for now I plan to see how far the little R10 can take me.
In my mind I can see endless picturesque roads winding off into the hills, beaches, exciting cities with ample and safe parking facilities, many interesting yet-to-be-met people and some unexplained source of income to sustain me. Washing and power facilities are far away notions that should all fall into place without too much concern and obviously the weather will be lovely all of the time. My previous travel has been mainly by train, which I love, but this new gritty road approach will surely lead me to an entirely new far-away-land where everything will make sense and my future will be laid out… Wish me luck!
Unfortunately my first van style road trip will not be up to the fatherland next week like I had hoped, but my current little VW will do nicely until my new minihome arrives. Meanwhile instagram will just have to appease my need for instant escape until a suitable time comes. Here is an old picture of my back garden in the early 80s to get me in the mood for the long drive up north.