Day 1: Cirencester to De Panne

Ich habe gestern Abend den Ärmelkanal überquert und ich bin jetzt in De Panne, Belgien (ca. 45 Minuten von Calais). Ich werde heute die deutsche Grenze erreichen, da ich in Richtung Schleswig-Holstein und den Partnerstadt von Cirencester (Itzehoe), fahre.

Tuesday was one of those days on the motorway where one minute you’re doing 70, the next you’re down to 20. Stupid M25!

Problems on the M3 (a broken down lorry closed a lane going up towards the M25). The M25 itself was busy but moving (normal weekday traffic – just don’t get boxed in behind a lorry).

After leaving Grandma’s I got back to the M25 and then had plenty of time while stuck in a traffic jam on the slip road, to decide whether I’d prefer to get get stuck in traffic on the A2/M2 (there was a massive queue on to the A2 coming off the M25), or whether I’d rather get stuck in the traffic on the M20 (where there were also a few traffic jams). I opted for the M20 – fewer roundabouts.

But there was no real cause for concern. Having left work early I had the best part of 10 hours to get to the ferry. Plus, on the ferry I have the added bonus that on a flexi-ticket I have the option of travelling on an earlier service 4 hours either side of my booked departure – so I could take any service between 18:00 and 02:00.

My car is a bit of an oven when the temperature gets above 10, so I spend most of the journey not being able to hear the travel news. Driving at 70 with all the windows wide open, does rather drown out the radio.

I started getting excited as I got close to Dover, traffic had thinned out and I was passing time by looking at all the interesting foreign numberplates. The clear winner for the numberplate which has travelled the furthest: A lorry on TR (Turkish) numberplates. My favourite numberplate was the one on the Swiss minibus, with the Austrian Audi being a close second.

In the port itself there were loads of Poles, a handful of French and Belgian cars, plenty of Germans too (and the best thing about German numberplates is they tell me where in Germany they’re from too – such fun trying to identify those, doing the research for the code you don’t understand).

But enough about numberplates. I’ve clearly got far too much time on my hands if numberplates are that interesting!

I got to Dover in plenty of time and they put me on the next departure, scheduled for 20:15. So I had just over an hour to wait. It was starting to get cooler by now (thank god) and there was a bit of a breeze too (hooray!). The sky was going a very nice shade of red. Eventually I watched as our ferry came in, unloaded, and then we were able to board. I was on the move again.

Standard ferry crossing really, I didn’t do much other than walk around a bit (I’d been sitting in the car all afternoon), mainly in zig-zags, because that’s how I walk at sea. I’m amazed I don’t end up driving in zig-zags when I get off the boat.

I was in France by 22:00 – clocks go forward an hour so 23:00 local time – and then just a 45 minute drive from Calais to my overnight stop in De Panne, just the other side of the French/Belgian border. I was in the hotel and checked in to my room within an hour.

So that’s the first leg of my journey done. On Wednesday, the tourist bits start. A fair bit of driving to do over the next 3 days (I won’t get to Itzehoe until Friday), but with plenty of stops along the way.

I’m getting hungry now, I’m going in search of breakfast. It’s fairly expensive in the hotel (€15 per person) so I might go in to town to see what’s available. At Belgian prices though, I might find that €15 is actually quite good. But I’ll see.

Bye just now.


Tuesday’s Mileage: 251.3