Driving In Europe
UK to France
My Driving to Crete trip, I had returned to UK to pick up my car which I had left in care of my sister. Cars were old and way too expensive in Crete.
Back here in England I was now driving to Crete, I was used to driving in Europe and had decided to start off at Dover and take the Catamaran from Dover to Calais. I had looked at the ferry schedule and ferry timetable but had decided time was more important (lets get going) and therefore chose the Catamaran which left Dover at 15:00(3pm), the Catamaran trip was a first time for me, very different and speedy only 1.5 hours to Calais not like the ferry boat.
I had arrived in Dover much too early. So I went up on the cliffs overlooking Dover and took in different views of the town and cliffs from various places. I even entered the national trust place overlooking the docks, just the same view but bigger than when I was a kid of 13 years old. I had been to school up here on top of the cliffs, at the Duke of York’s Royal Military School, it is still here amazingly but now there is a guard on the gate, so I did not bother to go in and look around. I was not really sure if it was still a school. Driving through countryside trying to relax before my trip, nice scenery and lots of quiet roads once away from the Dover ferry and truck routes. Care of the AA I had the best driving routes in europe laid out in a set of paperwork and maps supplied by the AA, which was great. I had my route planned right down to Crete with the ferries also planned out after studying the ferry routes and ferry timetables on the internet.
Anyway I caught the Catamaran on time and there I was, off to France again. The last time I was on another Booze Cruise to France, but now this time for driving in Europe namely the UK to Italy part of my journey, firstly France then down to Italy, France with its rolling hills and valleys and sensible motorists on the roads, well it seemed that way to me anyway.
I drove down the route supplied which mirrored the A26 but was the more scenic route heading for Reims and basically followed the AA route, stopping for a drink of water now and then. Eventually stopping the night in a place called Laon just off the A26, because I had seen hotel signs on the main road. I found the hotel easily being guided by a paper from the AA giving hotels and rough prices. 60 euros a night is the normal. I left after a French breakfast, which was, as expected Croissant and marmalade and cornflakes no cooked breakfast, well this is France. I drove on and on, following the AA route and after lots of considerations about going through Switzerland I decided to go for it, as it knocked hours off the journey time. The alternative is by going further south and into Italy much lower down. Finally after a very pleasant drive through France nice neat tidy back roads included, I hit the German frontier and then it was a big contrast to France, very worn roads and lots of traffic (driving in europe took on a different face), as I progressed on towards Switzerland.
The traffic soon got much worse and the drivers just did not seem to care. I was finding it very stressful everyone else at such high speeds all around me. I arrived at Swiss border and there I had read that I needed to have a tax disc which allowed me to drive in the country. So rather than risk a later confrontation I pulled into the police shop and asked where I was sent to a desk to pay on credit card the 40 Swiss francs needed.They gave me a nice little sticker for car windscreen, which shows I had paid the tax.Then from the frontier it was Swiss traffic nothing but traffic, all 3 lanes full and a nightmare meaning really heavy concentration was needed. I remember thinking so much money on this road, we think things are affluent in England and I could see that the rest of Europe have so much more. You can tell by the cars on the road, every other car is a BMW. Some breathtaking views of the mountains in summer but the traffic spoiled the whole thing. The average speed of motorists seems to be 100 mph or even faster for some, idiots I thought. At one stage I had been really frightened. I had driven through such bad rain and the brakes did not seem to be working as well as they should be, I was going in and out of tunnels at such a high speed, it was really quite scary. Finally with continuing light pressure on the brakes I got the car to slow down, I was so afraid of a skid if I had applied the brakes to hard. Then there I was in Italy, my driving to Crete had taken me through the mountains from Switzerland and it was so so pretty. Then the rain started again and it poured down, really torrential rain by time I reached the first town and drove around the town looking for a hotel but nothing suited me, so back onto the motorway (so called) and headed on south towards Milan. In hindsight it was driving on wrong side of the road in my own UK car which made things seem so scarey, a right hand drive on the wrong side of the road is asking for trouble.
Milan the outskirts had changed drastically in the 30 years since I had lived there, yes thats another story. The motorways run all round the city in every direction and of course you have to pay to use them. I had to pay tolls all the way, but at one barrier in Italy I could not see a ticket and therefore had to ring the bell for help after me feeling an idiot for 10 minutes someone finally pressed a button somewhere and the ticket popped out, what a relief! You have to take a ticket at the tolls then when you hit a pay desk you pay the amount calculated from your entry ticket. I headed on south around Milan, seeing hotel adverts even the Holiday Inn advertised, but knew I could not waste that sort of money. When I had cleared Milan I saw a sign for a hotel and by this time I was really so tired and actually aching. So I pulled off motorway and found the hotel, it was a very strange looking building in orange and on a small industrial estate but it was 22:00 hours and I was so tired there was no choice. Luckily it turned out to be a good move. The room was new and very clean and polished with t.v and shower and bidet all very nice and then I found a safe and frigobar in a cupboard, so had a place to freeze up my drinks from the car, so as to be ready and cold for tomorrow. Also I had a couple of beers in the car so they got nice and cold and kept me refreshed until 01:00 a.m when I eventually nodded off.
I remember the thermometer showed 27.5 degrees in the room. also I had calculated that Ancona the ferry terminal, looked like maybe 5 or 6 hours drive from here, but I would have to stop somewhere along the way. The prices at the frigobar were 3.5 euros for beer and 2 euros for a bounty bar. I had a good sleep and left hotel refreshed and so much happier than the night before. At 09:45 I set off and was driving down the one road to Ancona, I kept up the driving till 15:30. (5 hours) I had a few bad moments while driving down that road, getting very depressed and wondering what the hell I was doing here in a car, I should have flown. and should I be going to Crete anyway. Why was I doing this but I reached Ancona with no problems, it was further than I had realised and with only water stops the time went quickly, I arrived at about 16:00 that was 6 hours including the stops. I followed the signs to the Ferry Port and parked the car on quayside near the ferry buildings where it looked safe to leave the car. Then I walked to find a ticket office. After asking some directions I had to go back to car and drove further on and double-parked like everyone else. Then into the ferry terminal to buy a ticket and guess what I asked man at desk about a ferry to Greece (Patras) and yes it was the right desk and he spoke English so well, I bought a ticket on credit card and he persuaded me that I needed a cabin to get some sleep, so I said OK. It was 196 euros in all including car and cabin. Asking where the ship was and with luck again my car was parked at the ship entry point ,so I just slightly moved it forward and man waved me into the ship, checking my documents and that was it. I was queuing down ramps and suddenly told to stop and switch off the engine. So I did as I was told. That was it, easy really I took my holdall and went to explore. I had finished the first part of my journey driving to Crete. The England to Italy part being completed and now it was ferry to Greece where I had a drive across the Peloponnese about 3 hours and then would get another ferry to Crete.
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