Jan 3rd2019 – Day 1 – OMG we actually, really, honestly, DID IT!
…and we were unloading from the Eurotunnel into Calais.
None of the preparations for this journey have been entirely straightforward. Our departure was delayed from M having flu; the van has had various issues, none of which we fully resolved. My fear was that man and machine would be making similar wheezing sounds as we coughed our way onto the drizzly, grey roads of France. But, no. The January skies are grey and drizzly but M and the Machine zimm along quite merrily.
Whilst we’re heading South for sunshine, Calais puts us just 90 miles from Bruges which we’ve never visited. So, we head North and East, instead of down towards warmth.
Our first stop at Dunkirque leaves us silenced. The grey monuments of warfare litter the countryside: pillboxes and battery stations emerge as if growing out of the winter farmland, visible scars on humanity’s memories. The long, wide beaches of Dunkirk are flat, calm in low tide, failing to reflect the mottled atmosphere above them. It is an horrific thought to imagine the thousands that perished here, We take deep breaths.
Stan, meanwhile, has been running up and down the beach, chasing seagulls and a tennis ball. He’s oblivious to the memories and driven largely by his stomach. Time to move on.
Bruges is beautiful. It’s not just the ancient and lovingly maintained medieval buildings. Nor is it the wide, clear and clean canals with iron and stone bridges, criss-crossing their breadths. Towers and turrets add to the ambience of uncontrived loveliness. What is most attractive about this ancient town is the sense of order, calm, inclusion and management. It feels safe. It feels right. We wander around the twinkled old town, delighting at intricate, architraved doorways. Cobbled streets clatter with well-fed horses pulling tourist carriages. And we relax.
The impossible has happened. We’ve talked (I’ve dreamed) for our 20 years of camper ownership that one day, one fine day, we might make it to Europe. Previous reasons for not being here have included: not enough savings, not enough time, the van not being strong enough, family commitments, too much work, too much of too much. All of which have added up to: – no road trip.
Last spring, I said: “So if the van won’t make it to Europe, lets sell it and make our own”
I have a patient husband. He’s used to my pronouncements. He will, wherever possible, seek to enable my dreams. But the sideways glance, raised eyebrows and deep stare at the floor suggested that I was asking a little too much.
None-the-less, he made sure that the old van went, the new minibus was procured, along with all the accouterments required to fashion a home on wheels. He built the container for my fantasies; I sewed its soft furnishings. And here we are. Eight hours into Europe, the dream has begun.
We snuggled down next to one of Bruges’ canals, the night is quiet but my brain is afire; it combusts with possibilities. The unbelievable has happened; we’re here, actually, really, honestly here.
Me, M, Stan and the Van, in Europe, with ten weeks’ leave and twelve weeks till Brexit.
Wish us luck…