Thursday, 26 May 2016

WE'RE OFF

Sun.22.05.16

First time using the Harwich - Hook of Holland  ferry so full of anticipation. Harwich International  Port doesn't live up to the name and terminal is depressing and I've seen better facilities at terminals on the Outer Hebrides. Ferry sails at 10.00 and the check - in closes for the day at 09.15 so no room for error on timing your arrival.
Boat is good and looks new and we have nice lunch. Sea as a mill pond so the GF'S seasick pills totally unnecessary.  Spend the 6.5hr crossing with D&M, who are in fine form, reading the Sunday papers. Dock at 18.30, interminable time to disembark as not being Dover and a fast turn around obligatory, the operation is very laid back. Then not helped by Dutch customs checking and scanning all passports and third degree questioning along the lines of " is this your vehicle sir? Did you pack it yourself? "......I thought we were worried about people entering the UK or Europe from foreign lands, and every other port disgorges you from boat or train onto the nearest motorway ASAP.  Not Hoek de Holland so 30 mins for the relatively few vehicles to travel the 200 yards from boat to gate. And we're coming back this way and are booked again in August.
Anyway, 50km drive to Gouda where we find large aire in centre of town already v.busy. 30 slots with just 2 vacant so no problem.  Town looks nice but rain deters exploration so having had a long day w have supper and early night.

Mon.23rd
Leave at 08.45 (free parking on Sundays up to 09.00 mon) and easy pleasant drive on excellent  roads to Bremen in Germany where we stop at commercial aire (€15) on the river bank about 10 min walk from town centre. We all walk into town which is old/new mix which doesn't quite work.
Main square is attractive until you see the new buildings. But we have a pleasant beer and spend a jolly night eating chez Parker and playing cards.

Tues.24th
Easy run in heavy rain to Hamburg then better weather to Klein Rönnau, 30 miles south of Kiel and near Bad Segeberg where our group assembles. Most already there over last few days. Nice campsite on Lake which we walk along back to village later in day. Interview at 14.00 by appointment with tour leaders Codi & Jacqui, a very laid back Dutch couple.....Codi is so laid back as to be near horizontal and I can't help suspecting a stash of wacky baccy somewhere in the boot. My spirits rise when he is surprised at my question regarding importing  alcohol into Norway (customs allowance is 1 litre spirits or 2 bts.wine)and reveals he has a boot full of booze and has never had a problem on the 5 previous tours he has led. We may well stop at Lidl on the way to Denmark tomorrow to restock the cellar which has 20 litres in wine boxes, 6 bts wine and a case of cider - hardly enough for the next 50 days. Alcohol is prohibitively expensive in Scandinavia, esp.  Norway. Our co- travellers seem a lively bunch,...3 caravans incl our tour leaders 20 motorhome.  Excellent group meal in restaurant with get to know you session...the most surprising couple being Graham & Brenda who are profoundly deaf & dumb. That's brave.

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