The Retirees return to Europe – the Journey Begins

London

Wednesday Kerry and I started our first trip back to Europe since our anniversary trip to Rome and Lake Gondolfo in 2018. Covid intervened and we put our return trip on hold until now. For various reasons, some the restraints of anti-Covid policies and some personal, we determined to travel to Vienna then east to Bregenz for our 34th anniversary, then moving on to Switzerland, France and finishing in the UK.

So, 3rd August we left Brisbane flying QANTAS to Perth then to London Heathrow – what a shitty flight – 5 hours to Perth – a couple of hours there then, 18 hours to London. EIGHTEEN hours is far too long in an economy seat. We overnighted at the Holiday Inn Express Heathrow as we planned to fly to Vienna the following day. We can recommend this hotel for an overnight stay and onward journey. We tried to achieve too much in London after such a long flight and had to take a rain check on dinner with my niece Louise. However, we were chuffed about how well our arrangements were going, how manageable the crowds were, how trouble free everything had been but all that was about to change.

Photos of terminal 4 from our hotel room shows how close we are to the airport and from inside the hotel gives you an idea of the size of it.

Photos

Whilst in London we travelled into London central and bought Kerry a new pair of runners at John Lewis Dept store and then caught the underground to Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. There was a long walk from the station to the park which had been created for the 2012 Olympic Games. We had not been to these areas of London and we were quite impressed with the park.

My photos of the big slide, West Ham United FC home stadium, the Olympic Games Swimming stadium the river where river events were held during the London Olympics, the park walk to the slide tower and random pictures from the tower are below. No we did not slide down (you have to pre-book) and besides it frightened the living day lights out of me just to walk down the400 odd stairs on the outside of the tower.

Photos

After walking down the tower the impact of the flight hit us and we dragged ourselves back to the hotel as we had to catch our plane to Vienna early next morning.

Bishops Visit – France and More – Battling the Dreaded M25

 

We set off this morning with the weather mild and sunny. Our planned route would take us through Northamptonshire and down to the M2 avoiding most of the dreaded M25. We have to use the Dartford Crossing and that is on the M25 – no avoiding it.

Our trip through Northamptonshire was very relaxing with little traffic and clear weather. “Tommy” predicted that we would have a trip of 4 hours to Canterbury and we were on target until coming close to London where we moved onto the M11 headed towards Docklands. Blue lights and sirens – a good indicator that things are not going to be smooth sailing. The traffic came to a stand still and for over an hour we crawled along the M11 until we reached the lorry stalled in the left hand lane blocking completely half of the freeway. At least we knew the cause. So often the blockage clears like stale water in the sink when the blockage is cleared and you never see the cause.

Even so the traffic jam had lost us 1 hour. We then moved along again with free flowing traffic until meeting the M25 and chaos. All we could see was red taillights to the horizon. This is the usual chaos at the Dartford Crossing so now we just had to be patient and navigate to Canterbury rather than any other one of a dozen destinations. We lost another hour finding our way through this chaos.

Having made the crossing we had the choice of the A2 (presently backed up to the M25) or the M25 which strangely cleared as traffic scurried like rats down other exits. The M25 is the obvious choice and our journey is underway again but we are still an hour from our hotel. Our expectation had been to arrive at sunset but these delays had changed our ETA to 1900 hours two hours after sunset.

Now I don’t know what Tommy had been smoking but from that point forward it seemed to find every narrow country lane and go around in circles until out of the blackness of the night a service station appears and Tommy says “you have reached your destination”. Our hotel is one of those freeway motels lurking behind a service station. Despite its location the hotel proves to be fine. The standard of the Holiday Inn Express has proven to be excellent everywhere we travel and we can recommend that chain.

Refreshed we are on the road to Dover early in the morning. No hassles getting to Dover where we visited the local museum with its 12,000 year old salvaged boat and its bronze age history then a quick trip to Deal (Yes a place called Deal and certain evidence of pre Aussie travellers) and back to line up for the ferry. Now a word of warning to all those intrepid travellers using their own car to travel through Europe – it has to be compliant but you can buy the kit on board the ship (Yeah right!). Well we bought the kit and now we are compliant – its not a gag.

 

The weather has turned decidedly grey and wet. We line up an hour before boarding and the wind picks up. The ferry is delayed by high winds in Calais so our departure is set back 1 and 1/2 hours meaning we arrive in Calais after sunset. Just makes driving a right hand drive car in the right hand lane a little more difficult. Although the crossing was not rough the ferry pitched sufficiently to cause Kerry some discomfort (not a good sailor).