Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Our Drive Out :- Day One Part Two

Day One: Part Two

So with a wave and a toot of the horn we were finally off to our new life. Competing with the Saturday afternoon traffic going into Poole we finally made it onto the main road out, passing one road there was our eldest daughter flashing her headlights and her and the grandchildren waving like lunatics, our final goodbye and bon voyage.

We had managed about 5 miles and our noses were assaulted by a nasty smell coming from the back. You’ve guessed it, one of the cats had decided to say farewell to Poole in their own special way. Into Sainsbury’s car park to sort out Greebo again, trying to get his lead onto his harness without getting ourselves covered was no mean feat. In the end we took him out in his cat box, as that had to be cleaned again, he was not a happy boy. The 2 girls and Fenric didn’t seem too concerned, the girls were asleep and Fenric was carefully observing all that was going on. The clean up operation complete, evidence hidden in a Sainsbury’s bin, everything stowed back in the correct position and we were off again. At least the ferry wasn’t until 10 that evening so plenty of time for any more mishaps.

We made good time to Dover, arriving at about 6. We had planned to feed, water and exercise the animals both before and after the ferry crossing. The cats now didn’t want to come out of their boxes, but Fenric was more than happy to get out and stretch his legs. So the cats were fed and watered in their boxes while Fenny ate and drank in the car park. We decided to fill the tank up while in Dover to prevent having to find a petrol station in the dark, we also stocked up on mints and sweets. Then into the ferry port itself, where we were expecting a wait. Through the French passport check, they were only interested in ours not the Pet’s, and onto the ferry check in bit. As luck would have it the 6.30 sailing was delayed and they would put us on that one, once again no one interested in the pet passports, it did make us wonder why we had bothered with them. So we navigated our way round to gate 43 to wait our turn.

By now the wind was getting up and the rain was starting to lash down. Not ideal conditions for crossing the channel, but we had chosen the Dover-Dunkirk route as it meant that the animals would have least time in the car during the ferry crossing. Finally we were called forward to load onto the ferry. We were told that our P sticker meant that we would be put near ventilation because of the animals, but that didn’t make any difference as we were just directed to follow the car in front.

The car safely in the hold, and the animals checked on we went in search of coffee and something to eat. The water in the port was starting to get a bit choppy as the wind was picking up even more, we were soon to find out the conditions in the channel. The ferry eventually nosed out past the breakwater and started to lurch and roll. As it was dark we couldn’t see the white cliffs, just the street lights bouncing about on the horizon. It was soon after that Jannette found out that she had somehow forgotten to pack her sea legs, a cigarette on the back end of the ferry didn’t help. Even when we had found shelter from the wind, the smell of marine diesel caused her stomach to lurch and roll in time with the ferry. Not a very pleasant channel crossing for her, although once we started to see the lights of the French coast the motion of the ferry seemed to calm down a bit. Then it was past the breakwater and into the Port of Dunkirk. Somewhere that I had always wanted to go as my Grandfather was picked up from there some 60 odd years before, not that I would see much as it was dark. While we were waiting to disembark Jannette checked on the animals, while I fitted the filters onto the headlights, and putting our destination into the Sat Nav. Then we were off into the great unknown, driving on the wrong side of the road. At least there was less traffic on the road to contend with, but the roads are pitch black and no such things as cats eyes. Before our journey I had downloaded a route map and transferred that onto the road atlas, as we didn’t want to get lost in the great unknown.

By my calculations we should only have been in France a short while before crossing into Belgium, but we seemed to be criss-crossing the border as we went. We did pass a sign saying something about Flanders, which we seemed to remember from history lessons in school as being in Belgium. Onto our first set of roadworks and where we should have continued straight on according to the Sat Nav we found ourselves going off of a slip road. At least the Sat Nav got us back onto the right route, even if it did mean back tracking and going round roundabouts. At the first sign of habitation we stopped to feed and water the animals, the cats didn’t seem to like the Belgian air even on their leads and harnesses all they wanted to do was get back into their hated cat boxes. Fenny was quite happy doing his normal prancing around, just so long as he was with his Mummy and Daddy he didn’t care where he was. Animals fed and watered and us with a pit stop we decided to make the most of our extra couple of hours and head for the German border, or at least get as close to it as we could.

After a while we had the sneaking suspicion that the Sat Nav was trying to take us away from our goal. We pulled over, and sure enough it was trying to take us through Switzerland and Serbia. The bloody thing had a death wish, didn’t it understand that that Serbia would invalidate the pet passports. Consulting the atlas we worked out that if we set the route via Liege it should get us back on track. We got as far as Verviers before it threw it’s next wobbly and once again decided that Serbia was the best route for us, we only noticed this because we saw signs for Aachen pointing in the other direction. Once we had eventually got close to the German border, after poking and prodding at the Sat Nav we decided to call it a night. A walk for Fenny and another fruitless attempt to get the cats out of their cat boxes then it was time for some sleep in the car. Our original plan of one sleeping, while the other drove, was now out of the window courtesy of the suicidal Sat Nav.

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