Day 1: Tewkesbury to Germany
On the stereo: Wisin, Windows Weekly podcast, Austrian Grand Prix, This Is Northern Soul, The Band Perry.
The day started a tad early as I woke up at 5.30 with a head full of vital stuff that just had to be done before leaving. Important things like watering the plants, which was clearly more important to do than have say, another hour's sleep. On the upside, it did mean I left on the dot of 8am, heading from sunny Tewkesbury to Folkestone for the tunnel, via a marvellously inappropriately spiced burrito for breakfast.
It's been quite a while since I last got the Channel Tunnel and back then it was a bit of a kerfuffle of making sure you had the right payment card with you, printed tickets and so on. Today, I pulled up at the automatic booth thing a good hour and a half before my train, the screen had my name up already from recognising the number plate, and it asked if I wanted an earlier train at no extra charge. I said yes, out came a bit of paper and that was it, all done. This has clearly not been made by the same people who built the automatic checkouts at Tesco!
For those who have not taken a car on the tunnel, you drive on at the back and then drive along the inside of the train. The temptation to hang back and then floor it is huge but I was mature and controlled these urges!
Once out at the other side, it's a quick nip over the top of France, through Belgium via Bruges, Brussels and Liege, then into Germany. I almost passed though Belgium entirely without noticing it but at the last minute did get waylaid by a road sign saying 'Spa Francorchamps' just a couple of km off the road. As that's the location of one of the best circuits on the Formula 1 calendar a small detour was inevitable as a break from driving down endless Tarmac so I could go and look briefly at some more Tarmac, but it was worth it. To the disinterested observer, to be fair, Tarmac is Tarmac but this is hallowed Tarmac so that's different! This was all the more pleasing as I'd previously got off the train about 5 minutes before today's F1 race started and the Radio 5 signal hung on just long enough for me to listen to the full race before I finally lost the wrap-up conversation to static just south of Gent.
Only a few kilometres later is Germany and I have to say entering it is a little disappointing. In my head there should always be a stern border guard chap, preferbly blonde, in a leather trenchcoat. With a monacle if possible. This guard only has one word of English, this being a heavily accented 'papers', then as you leave his mate tries to trick you into revealing your true identity by muttering 'good luck' as you go. In reality, I sailed past this lone forlorn slightly grubby sign, almost unnoticed, while in a contra-flow and listening to Country and Western music!
From there, it was more motorway drag south.
Two things have stood out so far. The Germans do like their wind turbines but they're even more of an eyesore than ours as they are everywhere and the blades have red stripes on them just to make them more obvious. And their roads are at least as bad as ours, if not worse. I'd swear some potholes had me banging my head on the roof of the car.
Finally got to Newel and my hotel for the night at about 7pm their time. Not too shabby for 475 miles and a channel crossing. Only issue left was the menu - is 'Schweineruckensteak mif pfifferlingen' a foodstuff for humans? And as I was 'on the continent' I determinedly sat outside to eat like a stubborn Brit, but I have to say it was bloody freezing!