Goodbye Mainland, Hello UK

I did not have a very good sleep – I woke up in the middle of the night with a coughing fit – it felt at first like I was drowning. I think a drop of water had gone down the wrong way and I just couldn’t seem to cough it up. I finally went back to a fitful sleep and was glad enough when it was time to get up.

Breakfast was a bit different than yesterday – first thing was they wouldn’t let Mo in – we had to put her out in the car by herself in the cold (wrapped in a blankie) while we were warm inside eating.

The tea wasn’t great – the water came out of a machine and wasn’t boiling – you can’t make a decent cup of tea that way, although there was organic honey to sweeten it with. The baguette was pretty good, though, and I went back and got a cappuccino to replace the crappy cup of tea. The yogurt was good.
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It was still very cold out, but no snow and while it was overcast most of the way it didn’t really rain. We left a little before 8:00 but didn’t get very far on our journey before we ran into road troubles – only about 15 minutes along there was either an accident or major road works.

We left the main highway we were on and went on a fairly circuitous route before we could get back on. Everywhere we went there were more roadworks happening – all the towns were trying to get their repairs and projects done before winter hits for good.

We went straight north to start with, skirting just south of Luxembourg, then northwest into Belgium past Brussels, Ghent and Bruges. As we got closer to Calais we could see that the truck stops all had high fencing topped with barbed wire to try to stop the migrants from trying to hop on (or under) a truck and get over to the UK.
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We got to the Tunnel terminal nice and early, despite our hour-long delay in traffic, and the first place we went was to get Mo’s passport approved and stamped. The British fellow in front of us was fairly upset – he had his dog’s passport but had neglected to take it to the vet for its worm tablet. His only choices were to take it to a vet in Calais and wait 24 hours to catch the tunnel train tomorrow, or take the dog to a kennel after getting the tablet and come back over and retrieve it within 5 days. Although the staff guy was sympathetic to the fellow’s plight he couldn’t be budged about the rule – luckily Colin knew all about it and had been prepared.

I guess Mo was a little excited about all the other dogs there and left a deposit in the middle of the floor – luckily Colin was prepared for that as well as he almost always carries ‘Mo bags’.

Getting through customs for us went just as smoothly – the French side just waved us through – didn’t even have to stop and show them passports or anything. The British customs about 100 metres further were more thorough. The first thing he told me was that I wasn’t allowed to take photos of them so I deleted the one I’d just taken, even though all it showed was a sign ‘welcome to UK passport control’ and not any people.

We gave him both of our passports and he had a few questions for each of us but we had no problem and were let through in only a couple of minutes.

As we had a couple of hours to wait for our train we went into the terminal but there was no bar and the food places were all outrageously expensive – almost worse than an airport, if that’s possible. I picked up a bottle of wine at the duty-free shop and we went back to the car to have a snack from the food we already had. I did take advantage of the free wi-fi however.
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Our train was a little behind schedule, and we didn’t board until around 4:25. We were on the upper deck, and drove almost to the front of the train. There are four vehicles in each compartment and although you can get out and walk around if you wish most folks stayed in their cars. It’s not like a ferry with all sorts of amenities, although they do have toilets.

We started moving at 4:40 and arrived on the other side around 5:15. As we pulled in we could see another train to our left that had only semi-trucks on it – they’re on an open deck so I assume they always have their own trains. I can see why they might prefer the tunnel to a ferry as you cross in about ⅓ or ¼ of the time. There was a galloping white horse on the hillside to the left to welcome us.
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We still had a fairly long way to go – the GPS took us north to the London ring road – it took around 2 hours to circle around the south and west of the city until we hit the M40 to the Midlands.

We stopped at the store before going to the house as we didn’t have much food with us and the house had nothing fresh – I was the last one to stay there and that was back in July.

We finally got home after 14 hours of traveling, only to find that Colin didn’t have the right key to get in the house. Thank goodness for Lyn next door – she and Philip were very glad to see us and we took the extra key that she has.

Was it ever nice to sit down and relax – the last few hours of driving had been in darkness, but at least it hadn’t rained. They’re doing lots of road work over here too, but the motorway the whole way was between 2 and 4 lanes so it was just the volume around London that made that part so slow.

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