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Unread 2 Jan 13, 09:03 PM  
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geoffa's Reviews
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Ye Old Lady Who ? - Day 1

DAY 1 Friday 21st December 2012 They come in 3s

Well, we are up bright and early as we want to nip into our local McDonalds not so much for the food I may add, but so we can get some milk portions for our journey. Europe is not noted for its tea and coffee making facilities in hotel rooms. In fact, in Italy, it is illegal to use a travel kettle in a hotel room! Tea and coffee in a lot of places can be appalling they just dont seem to understand you need to boil the water. Often we get given a mug of off the boil water and a tea bag on the side. Sorry chaps, it doesnt work. Anyhow, pockets laden with organic milk portions (yes, we would buy them if they existed in shops) we return home.
We have to catch our feeder taxi at 8:30 a.m. outside the Post Office in Harrow.

This place is of no other significance than it has the longest queues in the world apart from Disney and that the until used to be the old SWEB (Electricity) shop until the PO moved in from across the road. Taxi arrives early and the driver whinges about us not having small cases. Excuse us pal, but the literature did say 1 bag each up to 20 kgs. We are away for 8 days matey not some overnighter at a Premier Inn. We need our ball gowns!
We are soon headed towards Watford to pick up two more people. The rendezvous point here is Watfords bus station just outside some Union Headquarters. Solidarity brothers! When they are installed its off to Borehamwood to pick up one more soul for this epic journey. Boy! They have tarted up the station car park since I was last there. I love Borehamwood for the fact that Walford (as in Eastenders) is just around the back of the old Woolworths shop. This is also where Grange Hill, Top of the Pops and Auf Wiedersehen Pet were all produced. The Auf set is now Albert Square. Just up the road in Elstree is where James Bond films were produced and they had the famous water tank for sea sequences etc. On to South Mimms services on the M25.

Its here that you pick up your feeder coach to Dover. When ours arrives the drivers have done their allotted hours and must take a break so we all pile into the food court area for Full English or Costas offerings. By 11-ish we underway to Dover. Its a pleasant enough morning after the recent monsoon season but you can see that fields are flooded along the route. Up and over the Queen Elizabeth ridge and we are into the Garden of England Kent. This makes me think of the many pleasant evenings we have had at concerts held at Leeds Castle (no, its not in Leeds!) and one very wet and cold 4th July when Ray McVay and the Glen Miller Orchestra got drowned in the pouring rain. They were handing out samples of Carte DOr ice cream to the crowds. Theyd have done far better with hot chocolate that night!
We reach the rather greyish looking cliffs of Dover. There are many towns in Britain that are contenders for the dump of the year but Dover will be for ever at the top of my list. (If I have offended any Doverians or whatever you call yourselves Im sorry but its still a dump!) To misquote Jasper Carrot if the world had haemorrhoids, this is where they would be!

Thankfully, it is a mean to an end. We sail through Border Patrol where it seems if you are headed to the Continent they couldnt give a damn glad to get rid of you I should think as demonstrated by the nose picking officer who waves us on. Theresa May has a lot to answer for.
Its here that an amazing process takes place. As all the coaches roll in one by one with their ultimate destinations displayed and when stationary, bags are exchanged between vehicles according to the numbered label on your bags, You go into a food court area whilst this happens. Did I say Food Court? Well, if one miserable Burger King is a food court Id rather eat my hat! Probably more protein in it. Whilst waiting we spot Wee Al, one of our drivers from last years trip to Lake Como. Hiding his face with a clipboard and shrieking No! Not you two! at us jokingly I may add we catch up on 12 months. We had the best trip with this guy and his colleague (Big Al) who has sadly left the company. All 46 of us on that trip spent a week howling with laughter and tears rolling down our cheeks.
Coach numbers are called and people start leaving on their assigned vehicles. Now the farce begins Have you seen our coach its blue and grey. Darlings they are ALL blue and grey!

One exception ours. Coach 083 Austrian Tyrol and Bavarian - is nowhere to be seen. Its had a breakdown on its way to sunny Dover. Nothing mechanical you understand the computer says No! and thus a coachload of folk have been held up whilst some IT engineer has spoken nicely to the chips and motherboards and persuaded it to let the driver carry on his way. Its going to be 30 minutes late not too bad. Meanwhile all the other coaches have lined up ready to board The Pride of Kent.
The staff of 8 at Burger King have dwindled to 2 as 6 of their number are no longer required now that a thousand people have left the building. No doubt, they have rushed home to get changed so they can share the delights of a night on the town in the fleshpots of Dover! So when we weaken and Darrin goes to order a coffee and a burger we are told Itll be 20 minutes, cos theres just the two of us! Resigned sighs all round.

Eventually our carriage awaits and we pile on board. The trips are organised by Leger some of you may have used them to get to Disneyland Paris. Leger dont own one coach. They act as booking agents and guarantee a steady flow of customers to coach operating companies who have a luxury vehicle made over in the aforementioned blue and grey. There is a lounge area at the back where you can go sit and chat, play cards etc and there is a toilet that you have to have Quasimodo anatomy features in order to use it. # 1s encouraged. # 2s NOT!
The seats are very comfy and are full leather with lots of leg room think Premium Economy on VA, There is a coffee / bar area where drinks are concocted. To save maessing with money throughout the journey you buy raffle tickets at 1 Euro each and pay with those according to the level of drink chosen. So, 1 for tea or coffee, 2 for a spirit, 3 for coffee with a spirit etc. You get the idea. Wine and beer are also available. Whilst in the UK, no drinks can be served as the coach is not licensed. Once in Europe its party time all the way!
We roll onto the ferry The Pride of Kent - and soon are mounting the stairs up to the Club Lounge. Remember whatever colour stairs you climb are the colour you need to descend when returning to your coach. No, they dont do blue and grey!

When we get to deck 8 we have to squeeze along the corridor to get past the hungry hordes trying to force their way into Langans Brasserie. In the lounge we collapse on huge sofas and enjoy the glass of champagne that was waiting for us.

Now hiccup #1 was the late arrival of our coach. Stand by for #2.
We have perused the menu and decided what to eat. The waiter comes along to take the order but tells us choices are limited as the delivery van didnt arrive in time for the sailing and we have set off across the Channel with few supplies. Seems P&O have no refrigerated storage at Dover docks. Beef sandwich NO! Welsh rarebit NO! Chicken and tarragon NO! At this point I say Lets make this easy what have you got? We finish up with ham sandwiches. Not bad but not our original choice! Thankfully, there is a copious supply of cashews or peanuts in packs and these are slipped into my man bag for later nibbles. One old boy completely loses it completely when told the limited comestibles available. I paid XX for this service what the ---- is going on? He was last seen having a restraining order placed on him as they took him off to the brig. (I jest.)
Thankfully, we have a smooth crossing. Both the day before and apparently, the day after, it had been pretty rough at sea. The lights of Dover approach. By the time we get to Calais it is getting on for tea time and dont forget they are one hour ahead of us. I love the town of Calais itself with its Disney like clock tower but the outskirtsits lovely to be greeted to mainland Europe by a massive petrol distillery. So we set off up towards Dunkirque. Situation #3.
A half hour hold up because of a lorry losing its wheel on the Autoroute. Not a tyre burst but a complete wheel loss!
We arrive at the Van Der Valk Hotel at Diegum near Brussels airport around 9:15p.m. tired and ready for a meal and a glass of wine.

Beautiful place to stay overnight. Have added it to our list for maybe future visits. We fall into bed so comfortable a double that is actually two beds. Your own personal duvet.

Cancer -let's kick it in the butt!

Edited at 09:56 AM.
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Cancelled because of illness.
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Unread 2 Jan 13, 09:28 PM  
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Eeyore rocks
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Yayyy, you have started your trippie...hectic travel day...I do like your description of Dover..

Thanks for sharing...and look forward to the next instalment.

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Unread 2 Jan 13, 09:37 PM  
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Great report as usual Geoff, looking forward to the rest!
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Unread 2 Jan 13, 09:54 PM  
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You have me chuckling and wanting to read more already!
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Unread 2 Jan 13, 11:38 PM  
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purple myra
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yippee... type faster!
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Unread 2 Jan 13, 11:39 PM  
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Melanie R
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yippee... type faster!
He can't, he has a puppy to distract him

Great start - looking forward to the rest
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Unread 2 Jan 13, 11:54 PM  
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Great start to the trippies., looking forward to the rest. Love your op on Dover ., you did make me chuckle
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Unread 3 Jan 13, 12:26 AM  
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Great start, love your trippies. Looking forward to the rest
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