Saturday, 31 July 2010

Day 15: Calais to York

Last night, our final night in continental Europe, we has an authentic french meal. No frogs legs or snails mind, but french onion soup, chicken and shallot sauce and crepes. Rounded off the trip nicely I thought. I opted for a shower last night, so I could get an extra 10 minutes in bed this morning, obvs, but there was no frigging hot water! I blowdried my entire body dry just for a bit of warmth. We were really looking forward to, finally, a night in a comfy bed. But low and behold, neither us could sleep; we're both really stiff this morning too. Typical.

The return leg of the trip, and we're both horrendously depressed, but horrendously brown (well, I'd like to think I am. Not at all red either. Win!)

We've had an amazing time on our travels, and have learnt so much. For example, we now know that being in a moving car is tiring, whether you're driving or not. And that when you think you're going to get a solid 9 hours sleep, in reality this is closer to 3 due to snoring, itching bites, uncomfortable ground, heat/cold, rain, drips of water on your head or sarah rolling on your face. We now know that in warm weather you must make a choice between being eaten alive by ants in the shade or boiling in your own skin and in cold weather you must not camp in the following areas;
a) on a mountain
b) in a valley
c) in Switzerland

Hindsight is a wonderful thing. If we were to do this again we would ...
1. Bring a blow up mattress
2. Bring cooking equipment/BBQ
3. Bring extra towels
4. Prepare for weather better. I.e blankets, fans etc
5. Buy a satnav
6. Buy mosquito repellent
7. Buy an adult sleeping bag and 2nd roll mat
8. Make sure bags/phones etc are under pillows when sleeping
9. Bring tire pumpy uppy thing
10. Plan to go somewhere big on the way back, like Paris or Venice. We ended up kinda aimlessly travelling around random countries and campsites.
11. Bring toilet roll. Some campsites (not in a specific country or area) don't provide toilet roll. We've been hoarding napkins at every restaurant we've been in. Sarah resorted to baby wipes!
12. Sarah would have brought chairs to sit on, but I veto this idea in favour of a blanket to sit on. We wouldn't want to look like massive camping geeks.
13. Bring a full set of playing cards. Don't rely on the Swiss to provide these.
14. Buy a better camping light/torch, or bring better replacement batteries. Sarah resorted to reading by iPhone, and I used the torch that was so bright it only lit up one word at once.
15. Go in a campervan!

Although we moaned a bucketful about the tent, the campsites and the sleepingbags, neither of us would have done it any other way really. The freedom of camping/living out of a car for 2 weeks can't be beaten by the train/hostel alternative. Not for us anyway. We did have to establish a few rules for camping though.

Rules of camping club
101: when its raining, don't touch the side of the tent
102: no farting in the tent
103: sleep with bags under pillows.
104: no wine in the tent, unless it has been decanted into a empty screw top, plastic beer bottle
105: 'set up tent before going camping' ....that was advice on the actual tent. See photo. Good job it told us, I was just going to camp with it still in its bag. Duh

Miles: 3000 (give or take a mile or two)
Countries: 10

Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device

Friday, 30 July 2010

Day 14: Belgium to France

This morning something extraordinary happened. We awoke only to the sound of people, laughter and the packing away of tents. For the first time in almost a week, it wasn't raining!! Mind you, within an hour of getting up there was an half an hour lambing shower, but that's nothing to write home about....oops.

Despite having no rush to get away, we were in the car before 10 having filled up on coffee and croissants. We headed to the Belgian coast and took the minor roads to Dunkirk through lots of little seaside towns. This was far more stressful than it sounds. I had to contend with constantly changing speed limits, pedestrian crossings every 10 yards (or 9 metres since we're in Europe), cyclists and, most importantly, trams! There are tons of crossroads here, and nobody seems to have a clue who has right of way. I've taken to heading towards them at speed and crossing them with gusto. Seems to work, cos everyone else stops.

We had a lucky win heading into Dunkirk. By chance we turned onto a road filled with tobacco shops in the middle of nowhere! Same tobacco road that sarah went to on her booze cruise with dad. What are the chances! She's now beaming at her massive savings. We're going to pop to lidl cos they seem to sell well cheap liqueurs and spirits over here. This road trip around Europe has kinda turned into a tour of lidl. How depressing.

We stopped off at Dunkirk for a walk on the beach, and a garlic chicken baguette for bargain prices. Tried to top up our tans for the last time before heading to Calais.

We arrived in Calais and decided to head for a carrefour warehouse thing that Dan suggested, so that we could get some cheap booze. I cursed him as his directions lead me to drive through central Calais, and we couldn't even bloody find it! Convinced he'd given the wrong directions on purpose (although we found out later that they were right, we were just being blind. Whoops) we googled it for ourselves, and headed for one near the euro tunnel. Carrefour is now Sarah's favourite place. As big as a macro, but everything is individually stocked, and so cheap! We only did the alcohol section, cos I banned sarah from looking at food. We would have been there all day. It was so big the shop assistants scooted round on rollerscates, and they used a road sweeper to clean the floor. We got some cheapo liqueurs, 97cent wine, sangria and some beers, for a grant total of €20!

After our spree, the sun was still out so we thought we'd use our minging towels for the last time and have a bit of a sunbathe on the beach before going back to our hotel. Sarah thought it would be funny to bury my legs and make me look like a mermaid, unsuccessfully. Then we built a castle, complete with fag end/sea weed flag and stick drawbridge. For a moment we could've been in Brid.

Today has been a good day. We were lucky the sun was out all day, otherwise it would have been so depressing. Nice way to end our travels.

It turns out the Calais we were bitching and moaning about on the first day cos everything was closed wasn't actually Calais at all. It was a suburb, so no wonder everything was closed! Calais is actually lovely, and has a very pretty beach. Apologies.

We have a massive €50 to spend on tea tonight! This is exciting, and might mean sarah gets her long awaited steak for tea.

Tomorrow: get the ferry at the crack of dawn and head back home!

Miles: 2602
Savings made: frigging loads! Sarah even contemplated setting up and import/export business to make a bit of cash.
Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device

Pork steak number 3

Katie the mermaid

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Day 13 Luxembourg to Belgium, via the Netherlands

One again, we woke up to the all too familiar patter of rain on our tent. Great start to the day.

It got even better, when we had to queue for 20 minutes to share a shower cubicle, which was essentially a trickle of water along the tiled shower. You can't afford to be bashful in these difficult times. Although, admittedly, the whole sanitary block was amazing. Looked like a temple or something.

As soon as we started taking the tent down the patter of rain turned into a lashing. We quickly bundled everything in the car, said cheerio to the fellas in reception and headed for sunny Belgium. This bundling may have been a bad idea, as my CD changer is now on the blink.

With sarah driving, we headed to Belgium to our camp site on the north coast. Belgium has turned out to be a massive web of motorways, its actually pretty difficult trying to find minor roads. The entire trip I've been after a McDonald's, and today was my lucky day. Belgium came through and gave me a royal with cheese (quarter pounder). The menu was in English and everything, which meant I could give babelfish a rest for 1 meal time.

When in McDonald's, the following conversation occurred...

Katie: they tend to have Mayo and chips over here rather than ketchup

Sarah: that's cos they've got so many cows

Katie: so?

Sarah: they've got milk coming out of their eyeballs...

Katie: ......Mayo is made from eggs....

Sarah: oh yeah

Summery: sarah is a dick.

After McDonald's we were only a couple of Kms from the border with the Netherlands, so we decided to pop in. We can now say we've driven through 10 countries in 13 days! Compared to the well kept roads of Luxembourg and the Netherlands, Belgium's roads are a fucking state. At the Luxembourg/Belgian border there is a very distinct line when the luxembourgian road layers have gone "fuck it, we're reached Belgium, we aren't laying anymore", which is where a smooth well painted road turns into little more than a dirt track.

The sun poked his little head out of the clouds at lunch, and its been going great guns ever since. We even had a chance to top up our tans once we'd pitched up. This campsite is massive, and really commercial. Its like Haven holidays for Belgians! And at €20 its a frigging steal!

Tomorrow: we're only about 100km from Calais, so we're going to have an easy day hunting down duty free, before finding the hotel in Calais we first stayed in all those weeks ago.

Since I'm writing this blog, I've been neglecting all of Sarah's main concerns, stories and anecdotes. How selfish of me. So here's a corker for you.... Sarah fell down the stairs at the Luxembourg services yesterday. By "fell" she means she actually had a small tumble in what was the slowest falling down of stairs I've ever seen in my life! But they were steep, it was busy, and she's now bruised and has a broken toe, apparently. After she fell, she turned to me and looked how a little girl who has just fallen down and scrubbed her knee would look at her mum, expecting hugs, sympathy and a shoulder to cry on. I laughed in her face.

Miles: 2503
Countries: 10!!!!!
Times we (sarah) has pumped up el burros tyre: too many. Maybe 5 or 6
Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Day 12: Germany to Luxembourg

I forgot to mention another reason why we love Germany. It was warm! For the first time in 2 days last night we donned skirts for tea. It was a mild day, with a few showers, but by 2/3ish there were blue skies and our good old friend vitamin D was once again nourishing our skin.

Since it looked like it was going to be a mild night, I demanded sarah let me sleep in her luxury sleeping bag. It was luxury as well! Its at least a foot and a half longer than I am, and super toasty. Like being in a massive duvet. Sarah wasn't too happy mind.

This morning upon waking, sarah was in a foul mood. She didn't sleep well, and now has a bit of a cold. Plus, it had started raining again. She was not happy. We has showers, then jumped in the car to go to Luxembourg. I drove, cos sarah wasn't feeling good. We had a difference of opinion (argument) as to which roads to take. I wanted to take the back roads, cos that was the whole point in the trip - to see the country. Sarah wanted to take the toll roads cos she wanted to go to sleep and couldn't be bothered to navigate. We flipped a coin - toll roads it was. At least it kept her quiet while she was throwing a strop (which lasted alllll day).

The heavens opened again, which made driving the loooonng motorways even more annoying. We drove into Luxembourg city centre cos we wanted to see the aviva building (cos we're cool like that). After 2 loops round the city, and GPS navigation of the building we were supposed to be looking for, we still couldn't find it. So we gave up and headed north to find a campsite.

It keeps raining every morning, but once we've driven about 100 miles its lovely again. We must keep escaping the rain clouds.

Sarah took a wrong turn off a main road, which turned out to be one of the best things she could have done cos it lead us to the minor roads through lots of little towns and villages. Turns out, Luxembourg has some really nice towns. They have a mixture of old architecture, castles, churches and stately houses, and really modern houses (which are all painted various different colours), cool looking buildings and modern pubs.

We aimed for this campsite cos sarah liked the idea of it being family run by 2 brothers. The old guy in reception (brother 1) was lovely! He spoke really good English, and had a good bit of banter about him. Plus, the restaurant looks like good hearty German food (cooked by brother 2) which we're all over right now!

Tonight I'm claiming the good sleeping bag again. I had like, 8 frigging nights of the shit one! Its well overdue.

Tomorrow we're heading into Belgium for our final night camping. To be honest, I've got used to the hard ground, broken sleep and either arctic or saharan temperatures. I might get withdrawal symptoms when I come back, and have to sleep on my roll mat at the bottom of the bed.

Miles: 2288
Countries: 8
Arguments: many many small bickering sessions. You'd have thought we'd been in each others company for nearly 2 weeks or something.
German meals: 3!!! (Not today, overall....)
Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Day 11: austria to germany

So lots of bad things happened today/yesterday.

Firstly, the mileage counter appears to have reset itself after 2000 miles, so we're not going to be able to have that final image of how many miles we've driven at the end of our travels. *sad face*

Secondly, last night noah decided to have his second coming without telling anyone. The heavens opened and it fucking poured down all bloody night! The wind was up too, meaning tent rule 101 (when raining, DON'T touch the side of the tent) was unavoidable because the sides became convex-ed (not to mention the fact sarah takes up a good 2/3s of the tent anyway. At one point she rolled onto my face!)

Thirdly, the fucker next door decided to do an impression of a hog all evening. Seriously, I don't think I've ever heard snoring as loud, and I was wearing earplugs!

Lastly, but probably most importantly, at some point in the previous 24 hours my left buttock was subjected to either a swarm of mosquitoes, a heard of skin eating ants or a horrendous flesh eating bacteria. My left buttock is now half falling off. The other half is so swollen, bitten and blotchy that its painful to sit on the toilet. Not to mention the itching. I'd post a photo but it would be vomit inducing.

However, we're very positive people, and a number of good thing happened too.

Firstly, the campsite turned out to be lovely! The people were really friendly. The waitress explained everything on the menu to us cos it was in German and the guy from reception walked the mile to the toilet block, in torrential rain, without an umbrella, just cos sarah couldn't work out how to work the key card system. Mong.

Secondly, we did the unthinkable. We didn't think it would happen. Nobody could see it coming. You could say it came out of nowhere.....we didn't have Italian food for tea! We had authentic Austrian/German fare of pork steak, chips, green beans, some sexy butter and a spicy curry sauce thing. Delicious! After of salad for lunch, we feel positively healthy.

Thirdly, our new campsite is also a dream! The people her are uber (one of the few German words I know) friendly, and its cheap.

Finally, and again probably most importantly, we love Germany! The countryside it lovely, and the towns we drove through were quaint and really sweet. (We did spend about an hour looking for a cash mash again, but shh). We based our route on driving through a place called 'titisee' (absolute mega lols to be had there). When I said it was like Lake Titicaca, sarah mistook me for Lake "Titi-Car Park"! She'd never heard of the real lake, apparently. Ha! Phil will be glad to know we made it here, and we love it despite our earlier reservations. He was right, we were wrong, what of it?!

We made a mega mistake though. Throughout our travels we've noticed an abundance of sweetcorn farms. If only we'd have brought a stove, we would have been set for food the whole time! Although I don't fancy thinking about the aftermath of all that corn....

We had a fully fledged German tea tonight too. Pork escalope with chips and salad (with a distinctly gherkiny dressing). Absolutely delicious! 2 bits of pork and about a million chips (with seasoned salt!!!!) All for 9 euros! Frigging steal! And the bartender loved the fact we ordered large beers. I think we're more at home here than anywhere else. We stopped at a Lidl on the way and got some more wine in a carton and lemonade (tastes like sangria...kinda), and some screw top plastic beers! For 1 euro 50! God, we love Germany (and lidl...)

Tomorrow: Luxembourg! Hopefully via a non restricted autobahn...hehehehe

Miles: 2048
Authentic meals (I.e not Italian): 2!!!!
Screwtop, plastic beers for €1.50: 6!!!!!!
Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device