We are finally on the road again. Write ups a few days behind our actual travels…
Our current aim is to do a loop through northern Europe and visit the Faroe Islands and Iceland, hopefully seeing the northern lights but really just experiencing a completely different way of life – 6 hours of daylight, subzero temperatures and getting about by boat should be sufficiently different, I think.
The first leg of the journey was from the home comforts of St. Albans, through London at rush hour, to Liverpool street, where we caught the train to Harwich, in order to board the ferry to Holland. Of course it would have been quicker and cheaper to fly , but wheres the fun in that?!
We were both adapting to our new backpacks – wheelie bags may be great for round Europe, but I find a backpack easier on my damaged back than the constant tug and lift of a wheelie bag anywhere other than the super smooth surfaces of hotel lobbies and airports. At least, once I get the damn thing on my back.
Loaded down with school books, my laptop (for schoolwork), and the numerous layers of waterproof and warm clothing we will need for this leg, plus the ‘emergency’ food because I am paranoid that Lauren might miss a meal (which as we all know leads to rapid meltdown), we navigated our way gingerly through Kings Cross and Liverpool street, at the height of rush hour, trying not to hit people with our bags, and boarded the train well in advance of departure. The train actually went through Maryland, the station that for a few years was the closest to home – which was a little odd. How my life has changed since those days.
On arrival at Harwich there is an exit directly from the platform to the ferry terminal, with a lift, which my knees welcomed after the homping up and down the tube with a ton on my back. I’m either going to be crippled or a lot fitter after this trip.
There were few passengers at the passenger terminal, as most people were crossing with cars, and there were also a lot of trucks crossing to the continent. Long distance truckers seem to be a hardy, hard drinking, lot and there seems to be a sense of camaraderie among them – those we came across on the crossing from Italy to Greece seemed to have the same brash approach to things as those on the UK-Holland ferry. They have their own separate areas on the boat, including a ‘tuckers only’ canteen and bar.
Having checked in we were taken by bus to the ferry, and climbed up from the car deck to where our cabins were waiting. I’d booked an outside cabin for 2, but we had been upgraded to a family room, which consisted of a double bed with a single bunk above it, plus another set of bunk beds. Everything was clean, shiny and new seeming. The shower was large, and the bathroom itself small but perfectly functional. There was also a desk and chair, a flat screen Tv, and controls for the room temperature. This was all pretty much wasted on us, as we dumped out bags and headed out for a quick explore of the boat before bed.
There were 2 restaurants, but we had already eaten and so we headed first to the shop, where I bought a cheap watch as mine had gone completely haywire, and Lauren spent some of her money on a magnet. She is collecting badges, magnets and postcards from every country we go to.
After discussing our travels at length with the bored Dutch guy on the till, we headed outside to watch the loading of the trucks, and enjoy the fairly chilly sea breeze. The outside area had a bar and even a volleyball pitch, but we were the only ones outside.
The ship wasn’t due to sail until 23.00, which was midnight Dutch time, and would dock in Holland at 0800 Dutch time so Lauren reluctantly agreed we should go to bed before sailing. While it would have been nice and romantic to watch the lights of the UK slowly disappearing into the night, I wanted to make the most of a day in Amsterdam, and Lauren was also starting with a sore throat, so pragmatism prevailed.
The next morning we enjoyed the approach to the Hook of Holland as the sun rose, mist hanging below us as we were overtaken by container ships and surrounded on both sides by windmills looming out of the gloom, cranes and all sorts of boats.
We docked dead on time, and after some pretty relaxed immigration and customs guys, were free to jump on a bus to the nearby town where we would continue our journey to Amsterdam.