27. April 2013 12 min read

First day of adventure - driving to UK

Trip from Slovenia to Great Britan

Packing things into car

So our adventure began on Friday afternoon, right after work. We have prepared as much as we could the day before except packing into the car. We have a Toyota Yaris, with average fuel consumption of 4.2 liter per 100km. This model of Yaris still has the adjustable rear seats which allow for more space in baggage compartment. This enabled us to pack tent, 2 sleeping bags, 2 self-inflating mattresses,small portable grill, pot and pan, 2 laptop bags, large clothes bag and fishing pole and net with fishing box into the baggage compartment. This left us with 2 head pillows and 2 backpacks of plates and food on rear seats with stools on floor of rear seats.

Driving across Europe

The journey had begun at 20.00 CET (8pm) from Ljubljana. The ride was smooth and first fueling was in Jesenice (Slovenia) at 21.00 CET (9pm) where we added X liters which were enough to get us to Salzburg (more precise Grudig). Late evening drive through Austria was smooth and fast as we arrived in Munich just few minutes after midnight. Then it was my turn to sleep and my girlfriend took the wheel. I woke up around 2 hours later when we were just outside Ulm and I felt fresh enough to take the wheel while she went to sleep. I drove past Stuttgart at around 4.00 CET (4am) on Saturday when I started to become sleepy again. She was still sleeping to I have decided to stop at parking spot, where we have slept for around 2 hours. It was a cold night and temperature in car dropped fast, so she took the wheel and drove us past Karlsruhe to Manheim and on to Luxembourg. I slept in and out for most of the route. In Luxembourg we took a drive around the city taking some photos from car and then decided to stop in center and take some photos of main attractions. We also visited a fuel station, because Luxembourg is known for lowest fuel price in Europe. Then I drove us to Brussels (Belgium) and we took a short driving sightseeing tour around Brussels, where we photographed exterior of European Concil, European Parlaiment and some other important European buildings. Then we made our way towards Ostendee and on to France. We have reserved a ferry from Dunkerque (Dunkirk) to Dover (DFDS Seaways) at 20.00 CET (8pm) from home and at around 16.00 CET (4pm) on Saturday we have arrived to our destination. Because we knew we have enough time, we have took a short sightseeing tour with photographing of Dunkerque (Dunkirk)as we visited old port (marina), beaches and took a walk around the city. It was very windy as usual. At around 18.00 CET (6pm) we have decided to head to ferry car port which was back to motorway and quite many exits away from city (I think around 15 km). After quite many roundabouts (always following car ferry signs) we have found the port and checked in.

Boarding a ferry in Dunkerque (Dunkirk)

It all went smooth. They have checked my ID and my girlfriends passport, then we went through UK customs with same procedure and on end we parked our Yaris in big parking lot in our lane. It was still more than one hour before departure so we have decided to visit the main building. Time passed by faster, as we checked the brochures, which were there and made some plan adjustments according to our new findings. I have noticed that seagulls take a great advantage of the building as they use wave of strong wind hitting the building for gaining height. We went back to our car at 19.30 CET (7.30pm) as ferry arrived. Soon after that few UK customs officials appeared and checked the luggage compartments of all the cars on platform. Guy took a swift look at our Yaris luggage compartment, because everything was neatly packed inside he just went away. At around 19.45 CET (7.45pm) the boarding to ferry begun. We hit a first bump as first car in our lane was abandoned (nobody was inside) and had to drive around it. In my mind was that parking in ferry is very hard due to loads of cars stuck together in tight spot, but because of our "problem" we got directed into lowest deck where we were parked in single lane. That way the "bump" really eased up the parking.

Cruise to Dover

After parking the car we have climbed up the stairs to outside deck. We took photos of scenery and setting sun. The ferry started the engine, pulled in the anchor and started to pull backwards. Soon every seagull was in water eating fish that were pushed to surface by ferry propeller. Smart birds knew that free dinner is there for taking. After the ferry left the port we have decided to go for a walk around the ferry. On ferry we bought a UK to EU ELECTRICITY ADAPTER (be aware that they use different setting of electricity plugs in UK than they do in rest of Europe) which together with my electricity split-er made our life significantly easier. It is in no way possible to force a European plug into UK plug. The voltage is the same so all you need it a different plug setup. Really funny was that this is not mentioned anywhere. After this small shopping we also checked exchange rates on ship, but they were not good.
When shopping was done we ordered a coffee from ships coffee shop. After few days we realized that Costa is like Starbucks in England. I mention this because coffee shop on ship was from Costa. Anyways for you coffee drinkers out there this just means a bit more expensive coffee with a bit more choosing of the type. Hot chocolate that I have drank was just a average cocoa. For me hot chocolate is a real chocolate melted and some milk added so that it stays more fluid when it cools. Fair replacement is also a pudding alike hot chocolate but I will never claim that hot cocoa is hot chocolate - so in this respect minus points go to Costa (as well as Starbucks later on our journey).
Although the sea was not really rough, but the ship was tilting quite a lot. For me, who is used to be on solid ground this proved to be quite annoying and I have experienced a slight sea dizziness. Honestly, if cruise would last for more than that two hours I would probably have some problems. Anyway when we spotted lights of Dover at 22.00 CET (10pm) the captain announced that we should start going to our cars and wait for unloading. So we went to cars and waited for ship to land. It landed soon after and it seemed that some people were able to leave the ship as planned. Well after additional 15 minutes of waiting we got worried and crew went to every car explaining that peer bridge was stuck and that we will move to next peer for unloading. Not long after that ferry began to move and around additional 15 minutes we got to peer and the landing ramp got down. Trucks went off and we followed.

First experience of driving in England

When we drove down the peer it was one way streets all the way to customs where we passed smoothly, then we just followed signs and ended on correct lane from Dover to London. No big thing as it seemed and not long we noticed our first roundabout. There my girlfriend mentioned that she has trouble seeing the cars from right side, so I did it for her. This cooperation is really helpful and I would advise any left-handed European drivers that intend to go to England to use this tip. It also helps driver to concentrate on cars and traffic in front of the car while co-driver checked the blind angle and incoming traffic. We use same approach when joining the motorway. So we survived the first roundabout and ended on the correct side of the road. After this it was normal driving as we just followed the map of major roads (from A2 to Caterbury then road changes to M2) and arrived to London M25 motorway rink. Roads were not exactly empty but there was not traffic jams. So when we turned to M25 motorway we noticed that some of roads we wanted to take were closed due to road works. This forced us to adjust our travel plan a bit and to our surprise we hit a toll station on M25 rink. We were lucky that clock was after midnight as toll stations are only operational between 5.00 GMT (5am) and 22.00 GMT (10pm). Instead of going to A12, we decided to take M11 directly to Cambridge. It was around 3.00 GMT (3am) when we arrived near Newport (also airport near by) where we decided to take some sleep. On English roads you constantly have signs reminding you that tiredness can kill and such which is really effective. Anyway we slept in car for two hours then it was really cold so we went in Starbucks for some hot beverages. It was 6.00 GMT (6am) when we continued our journey to our first stop: Cambridge.
You can read more of our first stop in day 2 of this adventure.

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