Let me start this ToLt (Trip of a Lifetime) Log by telling you that I am really pissed off. Just to get it out of the way and then focus on the great things. It was a real pain to get internet access. Also I really, really didn’t like to have to discuss my very unsexual relationship with my best friend with the Housekeeper in order to get a second duvet. Which we didn’t, by the way. What we did get was a questioning about how come we dare to book a double room but don’t want to sleep under the same duvet? Hotel Rules #1: you don’t discuss with guests.
Having stated as much, I am done with the annoyances. That’s out of the way now and we can start the Log off. So what’s all this about, you might ask. It’s about nothing less than a ToLt. Well, maybe many of you have already done it. But me and Siobhan have been waiting for it for years. There was neither time nor money nor company to do it. But now, here we are, traveling across the UK, all the way up to the North of Scotland and back. There will be pictures as well, but in these posts I can only share third class cell phone pictures 😉 I hope to give you an idea what it’s like, travelling by car, with a dog, through England and Scotland, where there are good accomodations, good food, even where the good toilets are, what’s not to miss… After the actual log, there will be some more posts on the matter in general. Ready for take off? Let’s go:
I for one started the whole thing off with a massive traveler’s fever. I don’t know if you’d use that term, but it’s a thing in Germany. I developed one for the first time ever. Usually I’m quite cool, but this time I kind of went into a tunnel, got too focused and nervous. So it took the whole trip to Bruges, where we officially started the holidays, to come back down. Even sleep last night didn’t do the trick. So I just left it at that and went with it. What else was there to do, anyway? Once you’re in the car and on the way, it will ebb away.
Have you ever been to Bruges? If you haven’t, you need to. I went there in 2004 with a university course about the Old Dutch Masters. I totally loved Bruges. And I wanted to come back ever since. So we took the chance when we decided to take the Tunnel and had to drive by Bruges anyway.
It’s a lot more overrun by tourists than I remembered. And a lot has changed, of course. But the beautiful and unique Old Town is still the same: very picturesque, a lot of flair, simply something special. Today there are so many Chocolates and Candy Stores! I believe 50% percent of the little shops sell Belgian Chocolate, Belgian Waffles and other kind of candy – or they are one of the tiny cafés. I was extremely happy to see ‚Mary‚ there. When I went to Brussels for the first time in 1998, this was one of the Chocolatiers who had the privilege to deliver to the Royal Court. Back then I bought one Box of Chocolates at 40 DM per kilo, which was the highest price in town at the time. I would have loved to take some, but I have given Siobhan full permission to torture me into getting the sugar out of my body for once. She is an expert in dietary things and she’ll be around me 24/7 for the next 16 days, so I appointed her Head Food Manager. She took it and does a good job. Which means that I haven’t gotten any intake of sugar other than the pineapple slices and an apple. So Bruges was a bit of challenge for me. But I did it. First sugarfree day: accomplished.
Some people asked me beforehand why we are driving by ourselves with my 15 year old Opel Corsa. The reason is simple: Sammy. There was no way I was taking a plane with him in some box in the plane’s belly. Poor thing would die there. So we thought to take the ferry. But no, it’s the same thing, only longer. They make you put your dog in a cage on the ferry as well. You can take him out a limited number of times to do his business on a small area and that is it. No Sir! The Tunnel, which prides itself on being one of the top pet-friendly organisations of the country, it was. We booked it in advance, just like everything else. But having had enough time in Bruges during the day, we came to the Terminal a lot earlier than anticitpated. We first had to stop by the Pet Terminal. I loved the paws printed on the street to guide you there. A nice man at the desk checked Sammy’s passport and handed me a scanner so I could check the transponder. All done in less than five minutes and off to the terminal.
Now when you arrive a the Euroshuttle Terminal, you don’t have to do a thing. The computer welcomes you after scanning your license plate. Being early we were immediatly offered alternatives with no additional costs. We were booked for 22:20 originally but got there some time around 20:00. We were offered the Shuttle at 21:20 but got on an even earlier train because it was empty. So after checking in it was a short check of the passport and then there was nothing left than to wait for boarding.
The journey is special if you remind yourself where you actually are. I looked it up on wikipedia, where you can find an illustration of the tunnel, and am still stunned by this master piece of engineering! During the trip I got more and more nervous. Because after the crossing I had to manage to find the hotel AND drive on the wrong side of the street following a whole bunch of new rules. Up until that moment I didn’t think about it too much, but sitting in a train crossing 34 meters under the Channel, that moment came closer and I had to deal with it. It worked out fine, so far. Taking right turns was a challenge but then it quickly works. I’ll tell you more about Driving Left in an extra post on the topic.
Apart from the not so obliging housekeeper, who did not bring us a second duvet (but a blanket in a duvet cover instead), we were extremely happy with the hotel – Burlington Hotel in Folkestone, and especially the room we got. We got upgraded! It’s huge, newly refurbished and very English with the wooden ceiling, the red-pinkish walls, the huge chimney piece, the heavy fabrics. The size is more than comfortable, even luxurious. We are close to the Sea aka The Channel and while I am writing this I can hear the seagulls fighting over some fish or other. The receptionist is very helpful, smiling all the time and very nice. So, apart from the duvet-desaster, I can really recommend it. We will be here again on our last day and have made the request for two duvets for that night now. So we’ll see how that turns out. By the way: this is normal in English hospitality. So if you are travelling with a friend or even as a couple you don’t like sharing the duvet, make sure to give your host the information beforehand. That was our lesson Number 1 in travelling the UK.
Sammy, who is a great little traveller, and Siobhan are already snoring next to me. I am slowly starting to feel tired, too. It’s midnight now. We started the trip at 9.30 this morning (not counting the packing the bags, the car and closing down the house and making preparations for the cat sitter). Add the one hour of time difference and you know what that makes.
Tomorrow will be the longest road trip during our journey. We will be starting from here, Folkeston, and won’t stop before we will be standing ‚on the bonny, bonny banks of Loch Lomond‘. See you then!