Friday, 7 October 2011

the journey home, Patras, Ancona, Bellinzona, Kaysersberg, Calais.

89  Goodbye to Aginara- Patras for the boat.
Oh no - 5 am and three mosquitos! We did a mosquito massacre and went back to sleep. We set off for the ferry calling at a little shop in Gastouni for fruit and vegetables ..and lettuce.  We took  Exit 2 from the New National Road (which seemed to come immediately after exit 5) and the port isn't on the signs. After calling at Lidl, we went into the port and took the blue road ( the road is painted blue) to a parking area where Pete stayed with the van while I checked in the new buildings. The ticket office lady told me to go out and follow the red road to Gate 3 which we did. At Gate 3 there were security officers who checked all over and inside the van and told us to go to park down to the left. There are security cameras pointed at number plates but the security guy still wrote our licence number on a piece of paper. There was a refrigerated lorry next to us and the sophisticated surveillance technique was to get a ladder up the boxes at the back and fish around a bit inside! There could have been a whole compartment in the middle filled with people that the security man couldn't see.  
We went left and parked with some other motorhomes and caravans about two thirds of the way down the port area. When the boat came in, motorhomes around us started moving to the end of the port where some lorries were parked and the boat docked. When the boat was unloaded, and crew told the lorries to come on, there was a free for all as motorhomes and caravans all tried to go at once! There was no-one to direct traffic into a queue so it was just as disorganised as the old port had been. It's a pity because the new port is far more secure and feels safer than the old one but it could be much better organised and instead of having parking bays marked, lanes for vehicles waiting could have been made as other ports have.

We were a bit dismayed to be right inside the boat , not near a window but we went on deck to watch the loading. We only saw a couple of young men outside the perimeter fence trying to get in but the police in a van went to chase them away, unlike other years where poor unfortunates were hanging about all around the port, causing problems for police and travellers. We watched till Patras faded into the distance then went back to the van to the relative comfort to read ( Charles Dickens 'The Old Curiosity Shop' in my case...and there's a Bevis in it!) We had lovely hot showers , salmon salad and an early night though two refrigerated lorries who got on at Igoumenitsa made a noise through the night.
90 Bellinzona, Switzerland
At 11.30am we docked in Ancona. We got off the boat at 12.30, and at 1pm we got to the Autostrada. We stopped twice for diesel en route but I'd made sandwiches which we had in a rest area so we didn't stop long for lunch. It's a fairly boring drive through Italy  and it's strange to see very old farmhouses next to the Autostrada surrounded by fields with a railway behind and sometimes huge factories next to them.

At 6.55, we pulled into Bellinzona service area just as it was getting dark. I opened a can of Lidl's chilli and had a quick meal and then a shower. We locked everything securely and put a ratchet strap across the two front doors before settling in for an early night.

91 Kaysersberg, France
We woke up early and set off at nine. There's a different light in Switzerland at this time of year and it made the scenery look even more dramatic. Clouds were lifting from the valleys into clear blue skies. The mountains looked absolutely amazing.

We stopped for coffee near Sursee. Heading for Basle, we then took the  A35 towards Colmar where we stopped at E.LeClerc for an hour while we shopped and filled with diesel. There were a few fresh prawns left for sale so Pete of course had to buy them all. I needed a fresh raspberry eclair too.....We drove the last few miles through vineyards to Kaysersberg where I guessed the camper stop might be about half full- wrong! It was very busy. We emptied and filled and found a spot down the bottom of the car park. The prawns didn't last very long when eaten with a fresh baguette and some salad. We went to the tourist office to get two hours free internet. We were horrified to find that we couldn't carry on the tradition of having some home made ice cream in the town as they only had three flavours left...I didn't fancy geranium, spicy brown bread or pistachio flavours......

I cooked a version of spaghetti carbonara using feta  and cooking cream to use up the feta. It was delicious.

92 Calais
We woke to a sunny but cool morning and set off again at 9am. We drove over the mountain and saw the wonderful views from up there. On the other side, towards St Die, we stopped at a bakery in Fraize for bread and I saw some different bread so I bought it not knowing what it was. It was fantastic! It tasted like a bacon sandwich ( my favourite food) as it had chunks of crunchy bacon in and was sprinkled with cheese on the top. It didn't last very long!  
We took our usual route, Nancy, Metz and stopped for lunch at Aire de Vitremont in the sunshine.We headed up to Petange near Luxemburg for diesel ( 1.18 euros per litre) and as we sat waiting for the lady in front to fill up, we both had the same thought...'head for Calais?' We usually have a night in Stenay or Le Cateau but it seemd that no sooner had we made the decision to drive straight up to Calais than the sun went in and clouds came over. We headed for Arlon and the E42. It was raining a little and there were a few roadworks between Namur  and Mons but it cleared as we neared Calais. We got to the aire near the beach  just before seven and bought frites ( not very good ones) before having a quiet night. We were both very tired. The aire cost 7 euros collected by a man coming round the vans in the evening.
93 Home

It was very windy in the night. We went to Auchan to stock up on favourite wines ( and the obligatory prawns and raspberry tarts) . We went to the ticket office at 10.30 am- a day early- and got tickets for the 11.10 ferry! We had a coffee and soon we were in Dover with slow traffic from the port, slow traffic on the M25 and the M1 round Luton. It got very windy as we passed Sheffield and the signs showed a 40 mile an hour limit on the viaduct because of it. I was much amused to see another sign at the end of the viaduct which said END...was it signlling the end of the speed limit or the end of our trip?
We got back just after five and it was lovely to see the house with the  garden looking green and tidy thanks to good friends Katie, Stewart, Roy and Rose and even nicer to find a 'welcome home' carrot cake made by Katie. How good it was to be home and on Wednesday too- music night up at the Huntsman pub- our lovely local,  so we just had to go up to listen to the super musicians and Pete was very happy to re-acquaint himself with British beer! 
How lucky are we to have such good friends and such a good time? 

And the next day,in heavy showers then sunshine, we emptied, cleaned and put the van away till next time...........

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