Rugby to Dunkirk

Saturday, 3rd January 2015

The day began bright and fair. The ferry was booked for 16:00 but I had to be in Dover an hour earlier for check-in. That left me an hour or so free, so what better than to revisit Summersault and indulge in another slice of the famed lumberjack cake? This I duly did, and most enjoyable it was too. Very highly recommended if you’re in the area, though a tad expensive at £5.60 for the cake and a hot chocolate.

British cars on the continent have to carry a sticker with the letters “GB” on it. I’d bought one last year, a magnetic re-usable one, but couldn’t find it anywhere. Fortunately, coming into Dover on the A20, there’s a BP service station which has a Spar shop. This shop has a good range of last-minute-before-the-ferry items as well as the usual groceries, and I was easily able to get the necessary GB plate. They have beam deflectors, too, if you happen to have forgotten those. The co-ordinates for your satnav are N 51.1184, E 1.3078.

Next stop proved to be the DFDS check-in as the security checkers were not interested in having a look around the car and my person – I was just waved on. Everything went smoothly and I was soon boarding as night descended. The transit time is just 2 hours but France is an hour in front of UK time so it was after 19:00 when we arrived. The ship had a different layout than the ones I’d previously used so it took me a little while to work out where I’d left the car. I’d really cut it fine as by the time I’d found it and climbed in the bow doors were opened and I drove straight off. It could have been embarrassing as I was in pole position and would have blocked one exit lane had I not moved in time.

The Dunkirk ferry terminal is starting to become familiar, so I was able to drive quite a way before stopping to ask Lori the SatNav Lady to get me to the Dunkirk ibis. Previously, I’ve stayed at the ibis Budget in Grande Synthe but this time the “proper” ibis in the town centre had a special offer so I’d decided to give it a try. It was easy enough to find but there is only on-street parking available at the hotel which made things tricky. The hotel is large, rambling and (shall we say) from a bygone era so all things considered it’ll be the ibis Budget from now on.

The last thing to do on this long and tiring day (hadn’t had much sleep the night before, which is absolutely no reflection on the Travelodge) was to drive over to the Auchan hypermarket and get something to eat at Flunch. This turned out to be Demi Coquelet à la Périgourdine (half a chicken in a truffle sauce) followed by Tarte au Citron Meringuée (lemon meringue pie) and very enjoyable it was, too, especially the ratatouille from the help-yourself accompaniments.

Then it was back to the hotel for a good night’s sleep.

Posted in Main | Leave a comment

Blyth to Rugby

Friday, 2nd January 2015

After packing the car with all things necessary for a continental tour (or so I thought), including the all-important bag containing the electronic gubbins and associated cables, I set off on the adventure. First stop was to pick up some snacks (of the chocolatey variety) and fill up with diesel at the local ASDA, and it was whilst pondering this and that whilst holding the fuel hose that I realised I’d forgotten something important. Don’t ask me what it was because I’ve forgotten. This required a return to home base to recover it (whatever it was) and then I was finally in a position to set off. I believe these are called “senior moments”, and I can well do without them.

The road to Rugby begins with the A193 and on to the A189 “Spine Road”. Down the A189 I joined the A19 and turned left for the Tyne Tunnel. Safely through it was a long haul, still on the A19, to Thirsk and the A168. A few miles later I joined the A1(M) southbound looking forward to a break at Wetherby services, which is roughly half-way to Rugby. The weather, which up to now had been fine, started to close in and there was intermittent rain.

After the break it was back to the motorway, the A1(M) becoming the plain A1 and back again, until reaching the M18. Turning right along here soon brought me to the M1 and its miles and miles and MILES of roadworks with a 50mph limit. Driving on the continent is SO much better.

Finally, well past I’ve-had-enough time, it was a branch right onto the A426 and so to the Travelodge at Rugby. By now it was dark and raining, so after setting up in the hotel room I went off to the local Brewer’s Fayre for the evening meal. No link to Brewer’s Fayre as it wasn’t a pleasant experience at all and therefore not recommended. Next time I’ll be dining elsewhere.

Then it was back to the Travelodge and an overnight stay.

Posted in Main | Leave a comment

Winter Break II

The World Wide Web makes travel so easy. Hotels and ferries can be booked, eating places searched for, points of interest researched, and so on. The service that comes top of my list, however, is Google Maps and its associated Street View. I could (and sometimes do) spend hours just exploring the world from the comfort of home. If I find something within reach, then a right click on the map followed by “What’s here?” from the pop-up menu gives me its co-ordinates which I can then pass on to Lori the SatNav Lady who will guide me there. Incidentally, travelling without a navigator makes Lori an essential companion. I’d really struggle without her help (and have done).

Having decided on Terneuzen, then, I zoomed around the map of the Netherlands to see what I could see. After a while, I came across this intriguing item:

Ark map

See it there, in the centre of the map? “Stichting Ark van Noach”. Even my non-existent Dutch was enough for me to guess that this was something to do with Noah’s Ark. Resorting to Google Translate (another indispensable tool) confirms that we’re looking at the Noah’s Ark Foundation.

A quick search turned up the relevant Website where I learned that this full-size replica of Noah’s Ark is moored in Dordrecht and open to the public. The Website also explains:

The Ark was built by Johan Huibers [rhymes with “divers”], a contractor from a small village in the Netherlands. In 1992, he dreamt that the waves of the ocean washed over the Netherlands during a great storm. The dream was followed by more signs, meaning he had to rebuild the Ark. However, this time the Ark is not meant to save people from a global flood as Noah did 4000 years ago, but to tell people that there is a God who loves us, and that He has a plan for our lives.

That was it – I was hooked. Now this was worth more than a quick trip over the border and back again, so the plan became

  • Day 1 – Blyth to Rugby
  • Day 2 – Rugby to Dunkirk via Dover
  • Day 3 – Day in Dunkirk
  • Day 4 – Dunkirk to Moerdijk
  • Day 5 – Moerdijk to Dordrecht & Noah’s Ark; return to Dunkirk
  • Day 6 – Dunkirk to Rugby
  • Day 7 – Rugby to Blyth (via Darlington & No. 2 Son)

This meant an overnight stay in the Rugby Travelodge both on the way down and on the way back, two nights in the Dunkirk ibis (special offer!), one night in the Hotel Port of Moerdijk (actually a Holiday Inn Express), and one night in the Dunkirk B&B (the free night, and where I’d stayed in March of last year) – 6 nights and 7 days.

As mentioned at the beginning, it was just a case of going online and making all the bookings. As a change from previous expeditions, I decided to go all electronic so instead of printing out booking arrangements and carrying pieces of paper around I simply transferred the documents in PDF form to my Kindle Fire. It was then an easy matter for me to show the relevant document to the various receptionists. The free night at the B&B had to be claimed by mid-January, so Day 1 became Friday, January 2nd. All I had to do was to look forward to it.

Posted in Main | Leave a comment