The trip across to the west is finally happening. We have packed up our house in Amsterdam, loaded up the car and the dog, and we are driving across four countries to get to Ireland. It was not an easy task and I had to get rid of many many personal stuff since they could not fit in the car. I threw away four bags of clothes, some shoes and other unnecessary items deemed to be junk by the boyfriend. It took us a solid week but we got there in the end … just.
Loading the car was quite a challenge in itself. Half the space in the back was taken up by the dog’s belongings alone ~ bedding, two sacks of food, feeding station … etc. I thank God I found some large vacuum seal storage bags and I managed to pack up our winter coats and blankets down to thin, manageable packages. We did not bring our bikes even though we wanted to. Space and weight of the car were a factor and we did not want to risk overloading the car to the point where it breaks off something important.
When the day finally came for us to push off, we woke bright and early, and set off at the crack of dawn to avoid any possible traffic jams. The highway between Brussels – France is notorious for its roadwork induced jams. Also, travelling with a big furry doggie in the backseat, I am always concerned about temperatures. At 5 am at least I know he will be nice and cool back there. I have to admit I was a bit emotional that morning because I was leaving our home of four years. I really really liked our house and I have spent a lot of time and effort getting it to look just the way I wanted. Now we will be renting it out to strangers and will probably not see our house again for many years to come. But once we were on the highway I cheered up, knowing we were heading off towards a better future in another country. Exciting times ahead! Also I could not wait to get to Calais to experience my first ever English Channel crossing via the Eurotunnel.
Within a few short hours we finally brushed past all of Belgium and found ourselves well within the borders of France. We lurrrve France, like, A LOT. We have always considered Belgium simply as an obstacle between us in the Netherlands and France. We’ve never really paid much attention to poor Belgium; we just want to hurry up and get to France where all the food is.
Now that Doopey is travelling with us, we were required to arrive at least 1 – 2 hrs in advance for him to undergo the necessary checks at the PET centre before being able to proceed onto the train. I was a little apprehensive at first but seriously the process was all very efficient and straightforward. They just checked that he had his Pet Passport, his necessary rabies jab, deworming treatment (within the 5-days time frame) and his microchip. Done. Back in the car we went and since we cleared pet checks early we were also allowed to board early … 2-hrs early in fact. A very very efficient system. So long as there are spaces available on the train (yes, train!) the system allows us to be bumped up and join the earlier queue.
If any of you, like me, have not used the Eurotunnel before you will be quite surprised to know that you don’t actually drive under the English Channel in your car. You actually get loaded onto a train, and then train takes you along the tunnel under the sea and 35 mins later you emerge on English soil. All passport checks and UK border control takes place BEFORE you drive onto the train. The entire process took mere minutes, it is incredible. Sure beats flying any time, any day.
Then everyone gets in a line and we are directed by rail service staff to drive onto the train one by one. If you have a dog travelling with you it just stays in the backseat during the entire journey. No one needs to leave their vehicle once inside the train … you just chill out for half an hour and then the sealed doors open and you simply drive off again … this time on the wrong side of the road, which gets kind of confusing since we are driving a Dutch car (left-hand drive).
Now, we could have saved ourselves a lot of time and the headache of mindless traffic if we had simply headed off towards Cornwall from here, but private banking matters saw us take a detour and head into the centre of London. *gulp!* We drove around a bit, taking in some of London’s famous sights and then R. dropped me off at the bank while he took off to look for a parking spot. By the afternoon London traffic was reaching manic proportions and we made the (right) decision to leave ASAP. It was only lunchtime and already we were crawling at a snail’s pace … imagine if it was knock off time at five!
We still had a 6 hour drive ahead of us, but once we reached the countryside tensions eased and we began enjoying ourselves once again. It was a stunningly beautiful day and the landscape was very appealing ~ wide open spaces, rolling hills with cows and sheep in the paddocks. Beautiful. Our destination is Cornwall where we will be spending close to three weeks until we finally push off on the final leg of our journey to Dublin. We had no idea what to expect so we kept expectations moderate. Everyone has been telling us what a beautiful place Cornwall is …. but then again they said the same thing about Brighton and look how that turned out. Lol. We hated it. But, lucky for us, the drive to Cornwall turned out to be everything we had hoped it would be. Spent well over an hour trying to manoeuvre our way thru London traffic, with me doing my utmost to get drive-by shots of as many famous London monuments as possible. Once past the outer city limits the cars thinned out considerably and we could sit back and enjoy the drive.
Our hosts, Mags and Joe, are lovely people who have made all the arrangements for our arrival. We will be calling their cosy annex to their main house home for the next few weeks while we explore this amazing part of the English coast. Since we arrived about dinner time, we simply chucked our bags and headed out in search for what this little town had to offer. It did not take very long for R. to lay his eyes on the local chippy and he made a beeline for it. Sigh, it could not be helped, I suppose. He has gone five long years without so it was only natural for him to go a bit mental; he was ecstatic, almost hugging his bundle of cod and chips. As for me, I wandered over to the local Indian takeaway to have me some lamb biryani, which turned out to be rather nice itself. I am not such a fan of overly fried food. I am happy to pick a few pieces of chips and battered fish, but that’s about it.
Cornwall is a peninsula that juts out the very south end of the British isle, surrounded by the Celtic sea on its western border and the English Channel to the south. With close to 700 kilometers of rugged coastline, Cornwall boasts some of the best scenic coastal drives around, and if you are looking for seafood, you have come to the right place. Cornwall is also famous for their dairy products like butter, Cornish clotted cream, Cornish ice cream and fudge. Being to close to county Devon (famous for its Devonshire cream teas), Cornwall is also riddled with quaint little tea rooms offering mouthwatering scones with butter, jam and lashings of thick Cornish cream.
But the highlight of Cornwall is of course its famous Cornish pastie, and who could come to this area of Britain without tucking into one …. it’s impossible to escape. Everywhere you turn there will be a bakery, butcher or general food store selling these delectable handheld pastries. The smell of baking pasties is almost too much to resist. I mean, we walk our dog every morning by the beach before the shops are open … and by the time they do the entire street smells of freshly baked meat pies and sausage rolls. Omg, it is pure heaven. I have not smelled anything quite so magical in a looooooong time, and I will always associate my time here in Cornwall with the smell of baking pies.
So far we have eaten pasties four times from four different shops and while they are essentially the same thing, you get to notice the subtle differences and start to pick your favourite one in no time. R. says he prefers the ones he bought on the very first day we got here, from a little shop by the beach, while I seem to have fallen in love with the ones sold at the local sandwich shop in town … I feel it has a moister filling and not quite as much black pepper, plus a perfect pastry.
Perranporth is a lovely town, not quite so built up and the best thing about this place is their dog-friendly beach. We walk here every morning with the mutt and it has been amazing. Dogs are everywhere and they truly love it. It has a vast sandy beach it stretches a fair distance along the coast on either side. Be it rain or shine the views are always stunning. When the sun is out and the skies are blue, you get to enjoy a bit of warmth and the touch of sunshine on your face (even tho the wind still gets a bit chilly). But when the day is cloudy and wet, you get to appreciate a more dramatic scene, with waves crashing angrily on the shore and on the rocky cliffs whose tops become shrouded in heavy fog.
Well this is just week #1 … we have two more weeks to go before we push off to our new home in Dublin, Ireland, so I will continue to regale everyone with snippets of Cornwall and parts of Devon as we zigzag across county borders. In upcoming posts I will be bringing you lots more travel adventures, pictures (I just busted one SD card full of gorgeous pictures from our recent trip to St Mawgan, Boscastle and Tintagel …. superiorly miffed for about two days now!) and of course, once we get to Ireland I will give some highlights but not as much since it will be more about work and setting up life there than anything else. Please stay tuned and I will see you lot in my Cornish adventure update Part II. In the meantime I shall leave you with this Youtube video R. found, courtesy of Visit Cornwall channel, which takes an aerial view of all the famous beaches and coastal monuments around the Cornish peninsula.
… to be continued.