10/30/2017 Back to England

Back to England

Monday 30th October – Thursday 2nd November

Booked the Chunnel last night so looking forward to this new adventure.  All the English Channel crossings in the past years have been either by plane or boat.

Left Zonnebeke Belgium in plenty of time to allow for traffic hold ups.  Just as well as we struck standstill traffic along the highway which held us up for nearly an hour.

Ready with passports in hand at the Belgium border into France but again no sign of police or customs officers at the border.

The departure terminals were massive but really easy to navigate through.  Our Australian Passports were scanned but not stamped at French Customs (which worried us) with no questions asked or no inspection of Ziggy.  Next to English Customs and Passports were stamped and the only question asked was how long we were staying in England.  Straight through with no inspection and then onto the train. 

The departure terminals in Calais

Hard to believe we were travelling under water – what an engineering feat the Chunnel is. Just over half an hour and we were at Dover and we could stay in the comfort of Ziggy all the way across.

Moving into position on the train for the Chunnel

Took a little while for my trusty driver to get used to driving on the other side of the road again in England having done 25,000 on the other side in Europe, particularly at roundabouts which were really scary with cars darting in and out of lanes to get across to their exits.  Nearly collected one that came across two lanes right in front of us.

Our campsite for 4 nights:  Leo Bay Campsite, Rushenden

We arrived here a day earlier than booked.  Set high on a hill overlooking the bay at Isle of Sheppey, only a small campsite with five designated spots apart from the permanents.  Leo Bay was fully booked but our hosts Steve and Sheila found an overflow spot for us for tonight.

Very homey campsite with great showers and toilets and what I would call a self contained flat without bedroom but with full kitchenette, lounge chairs and a fireplace plus a great outdoor deck overlooking gardens and lawn.  Bird feeders everywhere – watched birds happily swooping in at feed time.

Steve pre ordered parts we needed for Ziggy.  Had to replace the back of one of our side mirrors which we left behind in a tunnel in Norway and rear light cover which found its way around a garden post at a Lidl somewhere in Europe.  Had to get these fitted before heading off for our MOT (annual vehicle inspection) which Steve arranged for us for the next morning.

Ziggy passed with flying colours (the mechanic said Ziggy was in excellent condition)  – so happy to get the big tick and head back to LeoBay to meet up with Debbie and Michael (soon to move to the Gold Coast) who had also booked in at Leo Bay for an MOT, full service and running repairs. Spent many hours catching up with Debbie and Michael over a good red.

Next day, Steve had booked Ziggy in for a full service in the town of Sheerness nearby so took the opportunity to catch up with some internet at McDonalds whilst the service was done .  There was not a great deal to see in Sheerness.  Ziggy came through with flying colours with no repairs required during service and once again the mechanic saying that Ziggy was in excellent condition.

Next day Steve went about fixing some niggling but non mechanical repairs for us.  Our solar controller had not been working since the start of our trip so he replaced this.  Ziggy’s intrusion alarm system was also not working and he fixed this as we were keen to get this done before heading to some of the less safe countries in the next few months and lastly, Steve re positioned our rear view camera so it could be used as a permanent travelling camera and not just provide pictures of our bike rack and covers when in reverse.

Really had some wonderful days and nights with Debbie and Mike including a dinner at the local downtown pub only 20 minutes away.  They have a prospective buyer for Normie their motorhome and are heading to Asia for 5 months before heading home to the Gold Coast.  Really looking forward to catching up with them when we get home to Oz. They reminded us that we have now dined with them in 3 different countries – at the Currumbin Surf Club in Queensland in February 2 weeks prior to our departure, in Berlin a couple of months ago and now in Kent England.

The 2 Aussie Motorhomes at Leo Bay – Mike and Debbie’s Burstner “Normie” and our Hymer “Ziggy”

Thank you so much Steve and Sheila for looking after us and Ziggy and we can highly recommend your friendly, professional and efficient services to any fellow travellers.

Friday 3rd November

Left early to grocery shop before heading to Dover. No sign of Debbie and Michael being awake so opted not to wake them up so planned a phone call at Dover to say our Good-byes.  Caught up with Steve and Sheila for hugs and thanks with the likelihood of seeing them again next year for “bibs and “bobs” to Ziggy.

Arrived in Dover an hour early so were able to get on an earlier ferry today. Again our French Customs experience was uneventful with a stamp and a wave before heading though security with a wave and through English Customs with a stamp.  Have used our Australian Passports throughout without any issues despite being in the Schengen area for 8 months rather than the legal 3 months.

Waiting on the dock at Dover with the white cliffs in the background

A great day with blue skies and a sail across a calm ocean as we waved good-bye to the “White Cliffs” and enjoyed the short trip across the Channel back to France.

03/07/2017 England and Wales

Tuesday 7th March 2017

Apologies to all the people we promised to phone, email etc but we are having massive problems with communications. The trip of a lifetime started with the taxi arriving 15 minutes late and he did nothing to try to make up for lost time.

Next, on check in we were advised that our 40kg luggage limit (each) was over by a staggering 9kg.

Of course we were reluctant to part with any of it and were happy to pay for the additional 9kg until we found out it was going to cost us a cool $990.00.

Ugh!!!  So there we were running late and having to remove items from our suitcases – how embarrassing.

The suitcases that we had packed so well now looked like a demolition sight.

The things left behind were mostly for our motorhome Ziggy – but what the heck – we could replace those in England.

The plane from Gold Coast to Sydney was held up for us while we were removing luggage and we were assured that it would be taken to our plane – we wondered if our luggage would arrive with us in London.

Things now had to get better – we hoped.

Our flights from Sydney to Dubai and then on to London after a short two hour stop over were just wonderful.

We befriended our French Steward Jeremy, who is a Sommelier from the Loire Valley.

He made the whole experience just wonderful.

He really looked after us and even gave us a list of contacts in vineyards in France and his mother who is the mayor in a town near Le Mans – said she would give us tickets – wow was Rob impressed.

Wednesday 8th March 2017

Landed at Heathrow – raining and cold – think we expected that.

How excited we were to see our first suitcase appear and then the other three.

Straight through customs and then picked up our Volvo rental at Hertz.

Off to Stafford now, about 3.5 hours north west of London to meet up with Michael Steers and Ann.

Michael is our contact in Stafford who assisted us with our purchase of Our Hymer 544 – Ziggy.

We had the most wonderful experience dealing with Michael throughout the many months before our trip.

He made sure everything for Ziggy was checked out and safe and even purchased items for us so we could take off immediately.

 What a wonderful find Michael was and we would highly recommend him to any one wishing to purchase or sell a motorhome.

We spent the next 24 hours with Michael and Ann going over Ziggy and spending some wonderful hours talking and dining with them. – Friends for life now.

Spent £221 buying groceries and replacing items Qantas confiscated at Gold Coast airport.

Now to find a place to put everything. – We will probably change everything around 3 times before we are happy. – So many cupboards and so much space in our new home for the next two years.

Thursday  & Friday 9th March, 2017

Off today on a farm stay just outside of Stafford .”Park Farm B & B”. – Here for two days to become fully acquainted with Ziggy. – We are parked in a beautiful green paddock with views to the farm house and stables on one side and trees and green everywhere on the other side – all to ourselves now.

Had dinner with Michael and Ann at Saracen Head Restaurant- lots of laughter and told lots of tall stories.

Friday night was our first home cooked dinner in Ziggy. – Put loads of weight on over last few days so need to get back to regular exercise and good wholesome fat free meals.

Saturday 11th March

Left the farm and headed for Wales to catch up with Phil and Kaye Davies – Spent the afternoon tasting some of the local beers and wine then went on a pub crawl.

They live in a beautiful little village – met with lots of the locals and friends of Phil & Kay. -Ton of fun again but couldn’t keep up with them and staggered home at a reasonable hour. They eventually came home around midnight – so glad we came home earlier.

Sunday 12th March

Hit the road after breakfast and headed south for Canterbury – just a stones through from Dover where we will take off for Europe in a couple of days.

Took the best part of the day to find our way back past the South east of London – got lost on so many roundabouts – think the UK must be the roundabout capital of the world.

Rob was absolutely exhausted when we finally parked for the night in the Dover Park and Ride.

Monday 13th March

Took the bus to down town Canterbury – stocked up on groceries and tried out our newly acquired credit and debit cards and tried to buy SIM cards.

Canterbury Cathedral was under renovation so couldn’t see it but looked just amazing from the outside.

We were very frustrated as only one of our credit cards worked but we couldn’t get cash out from our debit card.

Back to Ziggy and on line with our banks to sort out problem hopefully.

Decided to leave our SIM card purchase until we get to France as no-one we tried to get sim from could guarantee us they would operate in Europe.