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Adventures of a Traveller
22-24 August 1998
After saying fond farewells the night before to all our German friends down at our local (the Catweazle Irish Pub, whose only claim to Irishness is the Guinness and Kilkenny on tap and the green lampshades), we stumbled out of bed at the crack of noon, piled the last of our belongings into the back of the Trav' and headed north. Our planned 3 week tour around the East German border on our way back to the UK had been cut short to only 4 days. Money talks after all.
With glances over our shoulder at the beautiful Lake Konstanz, we headed north towards The Black Forest. Our route would take us past Titisee, which is a rather fetching lakeside tourist trap, and then through part of the Black Forest before popping out the other side and over the border into France where we would stop the night in Strasbourg.
Strasbourg looks to be a nice enough place, but we arrived late afternoon on a Sunday. All the shops were shut, the city looked dead. We wandered off to find the campsite marked on our big AA map of Europe. Two hours later we gave up and headed out of town to find a cheap hotel. Formule 1 proved to be clean, cheap and handy to a fast-food burger joint.
We returned to Strasbourg the next morning, only to be thoroughly confused by the road signs (the lack of them) and all the road works detours. Not only that, it was pissing down with rain. Big bucket loads. Like a vertical sea with slots in it. We gave Strasbourg a miss.
Heading north again, we aimed for Luxembourg, about 150 miles away. Luxembourg is very nice. The town centre sits at the top of a ravine where there are nice views of the river below and the castle opposite. The shopping centre is pedestrianised (i.e. no cars), which is a great European habit. Back home all the main streets are noisy, smelly, dangerous things that shoppers are encouraged to avoid. Here you can wander about gawking at the shops and the funny buildings with only other gawking tourists and mad skaters to worry about.And the pick-pockets of course.
We left Luxembourg to itself and headed for Brussels. We almost made it, but just as we approached the ring road we saw a sign for Antwerp. Knowing that Antwerp is home to a Hard Rock Cafe and Brussels isn't, we took a detour. Our shot-glass collection must come first. Antwerp is a great little place. Lots of bone-shaking cobbled streets to rattle your fillings. They're also great for finding out if your car is as rust-free as you think. Will the springhangers end up poking through the floor? Or will the torsion bar eye-bolt finally rip its way out of the chassis rail? Exciting, nerve-wraking stuff!
We found a hotel that had secure parking out the back and was within walking distance of the main shopping area, the pubs, and the Hard Rock Cafe. Antwerp is a lot like Amsterdam
The next morning we drove around Antwerp a few times looking for the exit. Our European map-reading tip: don't take any notice of the road numbers on your map. They are lying! We felt like escapees when we finally stumbled onto the ring road around the city. We went almost full circle before we happened to be in the right lane for the northern exit. We made a run for Brugge. Brugge is quaint. It's got the canals and buildings of Amsterdam and the windmills of rural Holland. Wonderful place. Really lumpy roads too.
Our journey took us on to the coastline, heading for Calais and the ferry to Dover. God, this must be one of the most BORING roads in Europe, along with any of the motorways in France. Dull, dull, dull, all the way to Calais.
The only thing that livened up the journey was Moose playing sillybuggers. If you're an avid reader of Moose's travels (does ANYONE read this stuff?), you'll remember a strange stop-go event that had us baffled the last time we were in France. Well it happened again, just as we were heading in to Calais. The engine suddenly dropped to 3 cyclinders, then to 2, leaving us parked at the bottom of an off-ramp. A fiddle with all the electrical bits seemed to help, but there was no sign of anything actually wrong. It later turned out to be faulty plug leads. Once we got the engine going on all four cyclinders again we realised that all was not very well with Moose. The idle was rough and acceleration was less than brisk. 0-60MPH in 3 days. Sounds terminal to me! "Just get us home, OK Moose?".
And get us home he did :)
We made it to the ferry and promptly decided we'd try out the Channel Tunnel instead. Boring mistake. The novelty of driving onto a train quickly wears off when you realise that there's no dining car, no views to look at, and crappy underwater Chunnel radio. You have to stay in your car the whole trip.
Emerging from the tunnel, blinking into the English sunlight was actually pretty good though. Our soft-toy mascot Moose got his first look at the English countryside. With no better idea of where to go we headed for Guildford, South West of London. We'd heard it's a nice place to be, so why not? After a visit to the local Information Centre we ended up at a campground in Tilford, where we stayed for the next 4 days whilst we found a more permanent place to live. And wouldn't ya know it! We moved into a house which we are sharing with the local Morris Minor specialist!
So now, with Moose undergoing some major upgrade surgery, we've bought another Minor (from our flatmate, Over the Hill Motor Company) to ferry us around whilst we're waiting. Affectionately known as 'Myrtle the Flatulent Turtle', she is a green 1967 2-door with the loudest overrun exhaust note I have ever heard. I'll have to try and get a recording of it!
Well, I think we'll be here in Guildford for a while, so I guess it's Welcome Home Moose!