a road trip that begins with a ferry crossing…

Ninove starts here

Well, I finally got my act together and sorted everything out for Freddy Files 2017, looks like the road trip to Ninove is on! Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it last year, so I’m really looking forward to this one. Planning to meet my bus buddy Ollie and his friend Gez later on at our French ‘camping’ spot. A mixture of excitement, and if I’m honest, a little trepidation. I guess the painful memories of my last European road trip where I lost the bus to fire, still subconsciously haunt me! I guess the only real way of conquering fear is to face it, but sometimes that’s easier said than done!

This year, instead of catching the train on the EuroTunnel, I thought I’d try catching a Ferry over to France. The trains are great if you’re in a rush, but you pay a hefty premium for the speed. This time I thought I’d take a more leisurely trip over on the P&O Ferry service and make the journey over more part of the overall experience.

I’ve not been on a ferry since probably I was on a 6th form day trip to Calais! So taking the bus onboard the boat will be a whole new experience for me. First impressions are that Dover is a pretty full-on busy port these days! However, my just turning up did seem to make someone’s day. The French lady in passport control was really happy to see my bus and exclaimed ‘California‘ with a big smile on her face when she saw it! Then when I reached over to give her my passport, she also loved seeing the Maasai inspired beaded bracelets I had made and was wearing. Seems like seeing me in the camper had totally made her afternoon! They can have that effect on people! 🙂

bus safely stowed away in the hold
bus safely stowed away in the hold

Working your way through the maze of service roads and additional checks, I finally made it up the ramps to park the camper in the belly of the ‘Spirit of Britain’ ferry. The bus parked, were ready to cross the English Channel! Have to say its nice to relax a bit and have some of the luxuries like WiFi, snacks and toilets on the 90min crossing. This particular crossing was pretty full of young European school children/teenagers making their way back home, must be a popular school crossing time? It really was a bit of a flashback to school days again, complete with the sounds of Pop-Its being let off on deck! However, trying to find a quiet corner to myself on this particular crossing was a tad tricky at times!

tonights mode of transport, P&O’s Spirit of Britain
tonight’s mode of transport, P&O’s Spirit of Britain

Twilight ferry views

That said, when you get a view like this halfway across, you realise that taking the ferry instead of the train, really does have some beautiful advantages! The 90min crossing went by really quickly and it seemed like no time before I could see the lights of Calais on the horizon…

twilight in the middle of the English Channel
twilight in the middle of the English Channel

Road trip ready

All in all, a very hassle-free experience a way of crossing the English Channel. It was just a short drive to our agreed meet up location at Cité Europe where it was then time to set up camp for the night. I use the TomTom sat-nav on my phone and with the Western Europe maps app, you really are sorted in term of directions! Love how quickly and easy it is to blackout the bus with our original Bus Eyes screens. This combined with our earlier efforts to insulate the camper makes for a snug little interior for the night. OK, so it’s still very much a ‘work in progress’ interior, but it’s nice to get back to basics once in a while!

original Buseyes black out blinds
original Buseyes blackout blinds

Casual camping

This will be my first chance to try out my new Terre Vista Trails jag bag pure silk sleeping bag liner. Got to say, very impressed, you really do feel the difference, I will be sleeping in luxury tonight. I got the Jag Bag Deluxe – Extra Wide as I really hate feeling all constrained in the night as I’m a bit of a wriggler in my sleep! It really is very generous in its width and length (I’m over 6’2″) so was ideal for me. Lorna is soooo going to want one of these!

warm and cosy for the night, but still a ‘work in progress’ interior!
warm and cosy for the night, but still a ‘work in progress’ interior!

Another bit of kit I wanted to try out whilst away was the Belkin QODE Ultimate Pro Keyboard for my iPad. As you can tell by my long ramblings, it works just fine! I really love the fact that it features an illuminated keyboard like an Apple MacBook Pro. This feature alone makes it worth having. Being able to tap away on it in the blackened out camper at night is pretty impressive and useful when out and about!

funky lights in the Cité Europe interior that randomly colour shifted over time
funky lights in the Cité Europe interior that randomly colour shifted over time

Big day tomorrow…

Always the Boy Scout (be prepared), I had made a nice chilli and rice early this morning which left to mature during the drive over, and it really did hit the spot now! As the Cité Europe centre was still open, I thought I’d make use of its facilities and have a little look around before turning in for the night. Tomorrow is going to be a busy day…

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