Here is a peek into my travel journals! I usually keep at least a few notes about my travels, and more often than not I will write in my journal regularly during a trip. The entries are only minimally edited to give you a sense of what my first impressions were at the time I was traveling. The beginning of summer always brings to mind my English summer, so that is where this first journal page begins. After the original entry I’ve written a little postscript. Enjoy!
This is the first moment I’ve had to breathe since arriving in England last night. The flight and arrival went smoothly. I caught a cab to M____’s lovely Westminster apartment and we stayed awake and caught up over a drink until a bit too late. I completely unpacked my suitcases and my head didn’t hit the pillow until 2 am. The alarm went off at 4 this morning and I put together a suitcase and the paperwork for today and tomorrow.
I took the Eurostar from Waterloo Station to Calais-Fréthun, and a very expensive cab — almost 50 euros! — to the port. So here I am in my brand new Peugeot — waiting to get in line for the ferry. The preparations and the trip have gone so smoothly up to this point, that it stands to reason that getting the car was sheer hell. Today is a bank holiday in France. It was not listed on Auto France’s paperwork as such, and they did the scheduling, but no one was here to deliver the car to me. Luckily, after an hour of unsuccessful phone calls, a woman showed up to meet another customer. She had gotten one of my calls and took care of my car. Whew! That was so stressful.
It’s almost time to go to the ferry. From there I plan to see Dover Castle, and then to Capel le Ferne (near Folkestone) to visit with friends.
Capel le Ferne
Wow. Who could be nicer than the T____s? I’ve had the most comfy, homey, and interesting afternoon and evening with them. Mr. and Mrs. T____ have chatted up a storm about all sorts of things. Mrs. T____ has stuffed me to the gills; walked my legs off; and now all but tucked me up into bed. She is quite a cook, and Mr. is an absolute one-man comedy show.
The ferry ride was uneventful, but I really enjoyed Dover Castle and hope to get back when I’m not dead on my feet. I only managed to explore the keep, but it’s a site where you could easily spend a whole day. It is a wonderful site, both historically and architecturally. I purchased the English Heritage pass — valid at some 400 sites throughout the country, so in the end it should save me some money.
I met a woman on the ferry who informed me that Berwick is pronounced “Burrick” — who knew?
The driving has come back rather quickly. Only one slip-up, and that on a small side road, so no harm done. I’m disappointed in the left-hand drive, but it’s really not a big deal.
Tomorrow, Canterbury, and then back to London for a much-needed relaxing weekend. I can’t wait to report in with everyone on e-mail, Skype, etc.
On my return journey to Calais at the end of the trip, the reverse cab ride — this time from the port where the ferry came in to the train station at Calais-Fréthun — if I remember correctly, cost less than 20 euros!! I paid the tourist tax the first time!
I’ve made a note to do an historical post about Dover Castle. Hint: It dates back to King Henry II (12th century!), so it has a very long and rich history. Also, that English Heritage pass was a terrific investment. The savings added up, and I saw a few wonderful historical sites that I might have missed had I not had it.
You may be wondering why I picked up a car in France only to bring it to England. Peugeot was the only car company who did short term leases at that time. I researched this thoroughly, and it proved a remarkable savings over a long term rental car.
It worked like this: You buy (lease, really) the car for the amount of time you’ll have it. You pay up front, including a small amount for insurance and you receive a “brand new car, fully comprehensive insurance with no excess fees, unlimited mileage, 24/7 assistance, manufacturer’s guarantee.” You must be in Europe long term, I believe for a month or more. The Peugeot program, called Open Europe is only available on that continent.
I could have picked up the car in London, but I did save quite a bit by picking it up in France. There are a few caveats to this, though, and I would do it differently next time. First, the trips to and from Calais at the very beginning and end of my trip seemed to be time-wasters. And no one should be driving a car when they are jet-lagged! Especially on the left-hand side of the road. I enjoy trains and ferries and meeting people, etc., but I can do all of that anywhere. I would spend the extra money to pick the car up in London, but I wouldn’t pick it up until I was ready to head out of London. Which, you’ll see, was quite while after I settled in there. It’s not very useful to have a car in a big city like London unless you plan to leave. Their restrictions on when you can drive are very limiting, and you’ll want to use the buses and Underground, they’re very convenient. I did a lot of walking in Westminster and the neighboring areas, but to get to other parts of town, those services were invaluable. Finally, that slight disappointment — at having a left-side drive in a country where you drive on the left side of the road — grew into an irritation over the course of the trip and made driving the left-hand drive back home, on the right side of the road, much more difficult than necessary!
Just as those who live in Pennsylvania know that the city is not LanCASTer, but LANCaster, the British pronounce Berwick as Burrick. Later, I discovered that Keswick should be pronounced as Kezzick, Norwich almost as Norch. Worcester is pronounced Wooster, of course! The rules for the pronunciation of these have completely escaped me.
For next time, would you like to read about the continuation of this trip, or should I post from another journal? Tell me what you think in the comments! Ta-ta for now!