Take the Ferry and Breathe

by Julie Gibbons on July 18, 2008

The White Cliffs

The White Cliffs

This is a delayed post – it having been nearly 2 weeks since we embarked on the Grand Adventure, but it is where I want to start. Back at Dover – where we caught the ferry to bring us to the European mainland.

It was actually my first time traveling on a large ferry to another country. And my verdict? I totally loved it. What made the whole thing so sweet for me? It was the ease of it – especially in comparison to flying.

The last time we took a flight, it was from Edinburgh to Paris (CDG). Airports used to be fun places – it was a blast watching the planes, and the people, and the vibe was generally one of excitement, and dare I say it glamour? Not so now.

I blame two things for the lack of joy in airports. The first is the enhanced security measures employed in response to the dreadful atrocity we refer to as 9/11. Long queues. Removal of shoes. Endless questions at check-in (since when did an airport staff have the right to question me about the parentage of my child, just because we have a different surname?). Does it actually make us any safer? I dispute that completely. The second is the growth of the “cheap flight” phenomenon. Pack ‘em in. Load ‘em in. Fill ‘em up with booze beforehand – it all adds up to an unpleasant lounge experience.

Back to the positive experience: we arrived at Dover in spectacular sunshine – which was a relief after the in the main wet and windy journey from Scotland. There was the sea, and the legendary white cliffs – and the noise of seabirds reaffirming we were indeed at a port. We were truly going on le grande vacance!

We arrived about an hour too early – my travel paranoia having set in the night before, and me insisting on an unearthly awakening that morning to make sure we made it on time! We passed through customs without having to stop – my sweaty palms clutching the passports to no avail. We drove the car through to the check-in gate. No passports required. We parked the car. Took a stroll. Attached some necessary modifications to the car (GB sticker; headlamp deflectors). And then were on the ferry. I barely noticed we were moving at all. We grabbed an overpriced canteen lunch (with some forethought we would have avoided this scenario, but we barely had time to pack before we left, never mind think of food) before we made our way to some comfortable seats where the boys promptly fell asleep, and I was left pondering the ease of travelling by ferry.

Ah, but you ask – “surely when you reached Calais, it being in France, you would have been subjected to a barrage of border patrol bureaucracy?” The answer, dear reader is a resounding NO! We sped off the ferry, had a moment of panic about which road to take south and we were on our way. No passports required.

I can’t recommend it highly enough. Want to travel from the UK to Europe? Avoid those airports. Take a ferry. You’ll have the pleasure of knowing you’re avoiding those cramped loos and recycled air. Breathe in the sea air and dine by linen tablecloth (or take a pre-packed lunch). It’s no less than you deserve.

Wish you were here…

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Becky Cortino July 18, 2008 at 2:27 pm

This is wonderful — looking forward to sharing your adventure! :)

Interesting to hear of the added security you experienced. Although the majority of my travel throughout Europe has been by plane, I understood previously it was relatively simple by other means.

So glad you began at the beginning! Dover, the White Cliffs and Canterbury were high on our list to bring our children to when we last returned to England. It was an incredible moment to bring them to Henry VIII’s castle there, as we vowed several years (before children) to have that special day with them.


outsmarts July 18, 2008 at 4:59 pm

Sorry to hear about your untimely death. Perhaps it was stress of travel….

Sericously though air travel is a nightmare these days. I think they are out to humiliate you. But I have to say that my experience in Europe this summer was much more pleasant than my recent forays into the US and coming back to Canada. At least there the customs people are polite and sometimes even smile. Here they rip you apart and spit out your bones before they allow you to pass.

Lovely photos BTW Ruaridh has fairly grown. Hope to see you all very soon.


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