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.

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Winter Break

Last summer’s stay in Harfleur was marred somewhat by a failure in the hotel’s water supply. I woke on the Saturday morning to find the taps dry due to some roadworks not far away. This was completely beyond the control of B&B, of course, but by way of apology I was given a voucher for a free night’s stay in any B&B hotel. The offer was valid for 6 months, so by late autumn (having done the Irish Expedition) and with Christmas approaching the feet began to itch again and I decided to spend several hundreds of pounds to claim the free night. Living where I do you have to travel the length of the country to get to the Channel ports before you can even think about a continental trip.

But where to go and what to do? Not long ago I discovered the joys of the stroopwafel, but it was a rocky road to enlightenment. I first saw these for sale in the local Lidl and called “caramel wafers”. Now the caramel wafers I was used to were chocolate-covered fingers made by Gray Dunn or Tunnock’s, easy to eat and quite delicious. The Lidl variety were circular, devoid of chocolate and rock-hard. It was not a pleasant experience eating them at all. Recently, though, I came across the secret but I can’t remember how! What you do is make a mug of your favourite hot drink (sweet like tea, coffee or chocolate – definitely not savoury like Bovril) then sit the wafer on top like a lid for between 3 and 4 minutes. The heat and steam from the drink softens the underside and the caramel filling whilst leaving the top layer fairly crisp. The transformation is amazing and they are super delicious. If you try this, three things will happen:

  1. You will rise up and call me blessed.
  2. You will return to Lidl and buy as many as you can.
  3. You will never, ever, eat these caramel wafers in any other way.

However, with reference to (3) No. 2 Son Andrew tells me you can microwave a couple in a bowl then add ice cream. I have not tried this.

Just as I’d like to eat a croque monsieur on French soil, so I decided to pursue a stroopwafel on Dutch soil. So it was on to Google maps to find a convenient place on the other side of the Dutch border. I reckoned it would be an easy drive from Dunkirk (my favourite landing place in France) through Belgium and into the Netherlands. And so it proved. From Dunkirk to Ternouzen was about 90 miles and would take less than 2 hours.

Dunkirk - Ternouzen

But then, as Rabbi Burns was wont to point out, “The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley.” Idly perusing Google maps threw up an intriguing, alternative destination, and what was originally planned to be no more than a day trip became something altogether different.

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It’s a long way to Tipperary

Thursday, 11th September 2014

How could I resist that title? Cashel of the Kings is in County Tipperary, √Čire (Ireland), and it took all day to get there. The first step was to drive north from the Travelodge to the P & O terminal in Bootle. After check-in right on the 08:15 deadline (the signposting could be better) and driving up the ramp into the bowels of the MS Norbay I climbed the two flights of stairs (no lift on the Norbay) to Reception to pick up my cabin key.

Thu3

After a look around the spic-and-span en-suite cabin and facilities it was off to the dining area where the all-you-can-eat buffet breakfast was being served.

Afterwards it was out on deck to see the ship slip her moorings and head for the Irish Sea. The layout of the ship is such that there’s no forward view so I can only show you where we’ve been. Here we are leaving the berth and turning to port to enter Langton Lock:

Thu4

The dock maintains a constant water level but the Mersey is subject to the rise and fall of the tides. So the ship had to enter the lock, drain out the water then exit the lower gate once she was at sea level. Here are two pictures showing the ship dropping down to the level of the Mersey (look at the building off the port quarter – the one on the right of the picture, for you landlubbers).

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Thu6

Here we are exiting the lock into the River Mersey:

Thu7

After a few minutes sailing downstream we passed Seaforth and Blundellsands to enter the Irish Sea:

Thu8

There was then an opportunity to catch up on some sleep in the cabin. After a refreshing couple of hours, a millpond-smooth crossing and high tea, I was back on deck to watch the approach to our berth in Dublin Port. The exit and entrance being at the stern of the ship we had to reverse in:

Thu9

Disembarkation at 18:00 was a breeze, and soon I was driving through Dublin’s fair city. The romance quickly evaporated in the evening rush hour (although “rush” was never possible) and it took a full hour to get out of the city and onto the M7 motorway. After that it was pedal to the metal and a dash down to Cashel where Josephine and Liam were ready to greet me at Copperfield House. After being show to my room and settling in there was time to wander the short distance into the town centre and get my bearings. Then it was back to the B & B and a restful night. I’d arrived!

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