Day 1 N. Wales – The Tunnel
Full of joyous optimism, we drove down to the tunnel, sadly that bubble burst about 2hrs into the journey, as we heard reports on the radio that Operation Stack was in force on the M20. Basically the French were kicking off on their side, so our crossings were delayed. The M20 from Junction 8 was now officially a lorry park. With all approaching routes gridlocked. Happy days.
Not to be deterred, we had an overnight stop planned, so we snuck away from the traffic jams and drove the back-roads through the stunning Kent villages and byways, eventually stopping at New Romney, buying excellent fish & chips and parking alongside the shingle beach to enjoy them as the sun was setting. As a child of the 60’s this area is ingrained in my mind. This is the general location that “Dads Army” is based on, a little piece of old England, also I’d spent a lot of my military service in and out of the area on various training stints , so I had a wealth of lamp-swinging stories with which to bore the “Other Half”, normally involving copious amounts of beer and other pub-based shenanigans!….zzzzzzzzzzzzz She slept well.
Tomorrow would be another day.
Day 2 Kent – Brugge
After a overnight stop at the services at junction 11, at 0700hrs we attempted to get in the queue to Junc 11a, the mystical location of the tunnel access. Operation Stack had been lifted, all was looking good!, OMG! Queue of death on the feeder lane into Junc 11a and not a police officer in sight, pandemonium reigned. People were wandering around the motorway, walking the dogs, and making new friends. This is a motorway right? No mate, it’s a bloody car park!
To add insult to injury, The Tunnel publicity department was pumping out meaningless messages via SMS/twitter apologising for the delays…apparently due to an “Incident” at Ashford. Since yesterday we had been following Kent police/highways twitter feeds. They all talked about the queues, but gave no detail or solutions, it was gridlock. Then we decided to tune into local radio…and after about 20mins of inane drivel and cheesy hits of the 80’s, the announcer suddenly piped up Smashy & Nicey styleee…
”Ok folks, I’m hearing there is a lorry broken down at junction 11a. If you’re in a car, avoid the inside lane, you should be able to get access at the point where the lorry is stuck” I could have hugged him. I swung the Chucklebus into Lane 2 and drove through the traffic like the PM’s House of Commons convoy on a Wednesday lunchtime. Within three minutes I was in the tunnel access area. What a very British shambles!
After that, everything went smoothly, albeit with a 2hr delay. Once we exited the tunnel at Calais and headed for Belgium, the migrants were clearly in view, roaming along the motorway and initial junctions, but we were heading the wrong way, so there were no issues for us. By 3pm we were parked up in Brugge at Camp Memling, for an overnight stop. Expensive by our standards, it served our need, as we had always fancied a trip to the city.
The site is about a 30min walk from the city centre, and we enjoyed a couple of hours mooching around the little streets and squares. Mutts particularly enjoyed our meal, at a restaurant in the main square, hunkered down under the table, covertly receiving his gifts for being a good boy, in the shape of frittes and the occasional slice of omelette. …He’s never been so well behaved!
Later I slept the sleep of 10 men.
Day 3 Brugge – Bergan (Moselle Valley)
Another long run today, moving some 250 miles from Belgium, through Holland and into Germany, a bit like the Blitzkrieg of 1940, but in reverse order and slightly (just) less aggressive in style. I have to say, what an easy drive. The motorways in all three countries are well maintained and tightly controlled. The lorries seem to apply better lane discipline, not sure if it’s through legislation or routine, either way it works. The “Other Half” did a sterling job on the maps (she will be reading this), as we headed up to Antwerp and then swung across towards Eindhooven, Koln and Koblenz, before hitting the Moselle Valley and heading west in the direction of Burgen, our overnight stop.
Later in the afternoon, I got all military, ordered the Other Half to get her kit on…”Where we going pet, a stroll along the river?” … Nein mein liebling! Das Burgen Hof…. pointing vaguely up to the wooded feature that dominated the skyline on the one side of the horrendously steep valley…. even the dog gave me that look that speaks volumes. So off we went in 26’c heat, following a well-marked track for an hour until we reached the top of the feature called the “The Burgen Hof”. A much-need opportunity to stretch the legs, after the confines of the van for the previous 48hrs. At the top we were rewarded with a glorious view, across a huge swathe of forest and pasture land, very scenic.
The area is home to a large number of “Maüse” Buzzards, we saw groups of them hunting within a fairly small area, whereas in the UK we only tend to see ones or two’s, here we counted 6-7 grouped together, the dog stayed close! Great to watch though, even the “Other Half” was impressed with what I’d laid on (cough).
Day 4 – Ernst
It rained, we mooched.
Day 5 – Bremm
The sun shone today, everyones happy again. So now we’re parked up at a small winery called “Oster-Franzen”. A nice 5 mile stroll this afternoon, up the Hechherd.
Later this evening for the cost of €10 we attended a wine-tasting for idiots, seemed apt! The “Other half” of course, being a culture vulture and N. Irish to boot, necked all 4 x glasses, in 4 easy movements….so the “Token Brit Couple” were back in the van by 7.30pm, with a curry and the guilty conscience bottle of riesling I’d bought off the proprietors to try and make amends!
That is all.