Monday, 10 September 2007

Day 1: Brussels to Holyhead

The point of this trip was to help John retrieve some of his stuff from his family home in Dublin and drive them back to Brussels. Being the one with the driving license, I was the designated driver.

Ever true to himself, John was late picking me up, though this time he actually had a damn good excuse.
All was forgiven when I finally sat down in the car and marveled at its technological wonder. Now I drive the "IKEA" car, a Peugeot 206, and when you move your seat, you are most likely going to end the maneuver with the lever coming off in your hand. But with the Espace, EVERYTHING is electric. Seat adjusting is a doddle using little electronic levers and I was amazed at seeing there was a memory button for seat positioning!
We also discover that the front loading cd player can hold 6 cds and play mp3s - If only we had known. Soo many other gadgets and crafty things that make driving an absolute pleasure.

The only let down was the electronic handbrake. It took me at least 5 times (hurting fingers each time) of pulling the outer bit out while simultaneously pushing the middle bit in (and swearing) before it became 'easy' to use but I missed the traditional handbrake that you can use for uphill starts. Maybe it's just me.

Worth noting is the GPS system that shows you the route but also the signs. Very nice feature.

We had planned to take the ferry across but as J had never taken the "Chunnel" we thought we'd give it a go. It's quicker, really easy, (though could become quite a headache if your car is higher than 1m80!) and the GPS systems get all confused.

35 mins later (snoozed in the car - good excuse to adjust the seats again and open the huge sunroof. :) ) we arrive in Dover and the moment I had been dreading arrives: Driving on the left, err right, no, left.

I got into it pretty well but we were mostly on motorways. The English lorry drivers are overtaking freaks! While still ever so courteous, I found English drivers to be more reckless than I had remembered (but then again I was driving back then.)
Anyway, we bypass East London, up past Newport Pagnell (*smile*) and up again over Birmingham via Rugby - kind of.

And then I saw it.
The sign somewhere up near Stoke-on-Trent. Alton Towers.

For those of you for who that means nothing, Alton Towers is a famous Theme park in Europe.

I swear light bulbs went up over our heads and for the next miles we wondered how easy it would be to rejig the plans and free up a day. Pretty easily it turns out, amazing how flexible you can be when it comes to the thing you've been wanting to do since being a kid.
Ok, enough rollercoaster talk, there'll be loads of that later.

Stopping in Chester for dinner was my first real challenge. I got completely frazzled by driving in a city at night. I finally selected the 6th parking lot J pointed out (His patience astounded me on that one) and we went off in search of food - and in my case HALF a pint to calm my nerves and growing pissyness.
Aah the wonders of nice people and cider. I am in England again.
No food was found unfortunately but my trusty TomTom took us to a cash machine! Well impressed.

Plans rearranged, I felt ok to drive all the way to Holyhead another 1h30hrs away.
Nice little b&b in Holyhead, but stomachs were growling. Ironically this tiny Welsh town allowed me to taste one of the best kebabs. Could have done without getting frozen solid by the sea wind. :)

I'm feeling good about this trip now. So far everything has been a laugh. And there's so much more to come.

No comments: