Monday, August 30, 2010

Journey to hell and back

Last Monday I drove to England.

I've done it twice before and I can get from my house near Düsseldorf through the Netherlands, Belgium and France, across on the Chunnel and then up to just south of Birmingham in about 8 hours.
I start at 7am and drive and drive, stopping only for petrol and toilet stops (2 kids and 1 dog (previously) I'm lucky to get away with just 2 stops - they NEVER need the loo at the same time the car needs fuel!) and the first time I did it I was shocked to turn up at my parents at 3.30, they weren't expecting us that early either and we had to wait for them to get back from walking the dog!

This year I'd said I wouldn't do my UK summer tour, too tiring - spending a few days here and a few days there, if people love us enough then they'll make the effort to come and see us...
and then Jacky decided to finally get married so we had to go, couldn't miss Jacky's wedding, no way. But I thought (foolishly) that as we were only going as far as St Albans the journey would take maybe a little less than 8 hours.


It took 10.

10 hours!

10 hours cooped up in a car with 2 children and in the worst August weather imaginable. It was hell.

The journey didn't start well. Jas was very quiet (not a good sign). It was raining. We got onto the Autobahn near us and then crawled along in 1st gear for an hour. During this hour Jas decided she felt sick. There was no way I was going to pull over and lose valuable metres so we had the window down and poor Jas had to vomit on the move - this was the only time during the journey that I was glad that rain was hammering down (and so instantly washing away the vomit) and that we were moving no faster than a snail so that at least Jas didn't get whiplash as she stuck her head out of the window! I did spare a thought for the car behind (especially as the Germans are so anal about their perfect autos) but hey, what could I do?

Eventually we changed Autobahns and I managed to pick up speed, Jas fell asleep but the rain continued.

Then we came to Eindhoven. Every year we've made this trip the road layout at Eindhoven has been a little bit different as they've been building a fancy new flyover system, previously though the Tomtom has coped with it, not so this year. She told me to go straight on and as I did, out of the corner of my eye I saw a sign pointing to the right exit signposted Antwerp, and I know that after Einhoven the Antwerp ring is the next thing to negotiate (crawl around in a great long queue)
After this there were no signs to Antwerp.
And Ms Tomtom was no use because according to her we were driving through the middle of a field, she hadn't got a clue were we were...somehow I managed 15 minutes later to be on the right road to Antwerp but I wasn't happy. We were now really late for our crossing (yes, I know we get a 2 hour window, but I wanted to get the one we were booked on)

After the Netherlands comes Belgium (on our roadtrip anyway) the land of crap road surfaces and even crapper drivers, this year we got flooded roads with fire engines too. Joy.

So eventually we got to the Channel Tunnel terminal, checked in, ran for the loo and back to the car to board. There were 3 cars in front of us, all waiting patiently to be called forward to board when they decided the train was full and we'd have to wait for the next we were led off by a nippy little Peugeot/Citroen to the front of the queue for the next train. Crap.

Finally we were in England, the end was in sight. Ms Tomtom advised that our ETA was 2.25 (we were meeting another friend at a service station to child swap) and so Ben called Alison and told her when to meet. This was before we discovered that they're digging up the whole of the British motorway system, no matter which motorway we were on (and we were on several) there were cones for miles and miles and miles, 50 mph max speed limit, I should be so lucky. It was hell. I think we were an hour late getting to the meeting point.

Next year I am definitely NOT doing the UK tour. I shall stay on the continent, where the Autobahn system actually works, either that or I shall fly!

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