Route 2… Planning this trip, countries like Iran and Pakistan grabbed our attention; could we get in? would they grant us a visa? if we got in, how safe would it be it for UK nationals? We’d done our research, allayed all worries and fears and decided we were good to go (at least through Iran). These were places we reckoned the excitement would really start, all of this preceded by a bit of a jolly jaunt down through Europe taking in some sunny islands in the Med; Sardinia followed by Sicily, then across from toe to heel of Italy and finally a sea crossing to Greece to marvel at the ancient wonders of that land. That was Route 1; start of our grand adventure. At least it was up until last Sunday evening.
That was when Greece’s financial shenanigans finally caught up with them and the place is verging towards the brink of chaos with a Euro-exit, a run on the banks and imminent upset to the infrastructure all looming. ATMs empty of money, credit cards not accepted as everyone lunges for cash. Already tales of folk panic-buying; stock-piling petrol by the jerry-can in case the pumps run out. With bitter disappointment, we decide to give it a miss and go for a change of plan. And so, on to Route 2…
With everything complete; jobs wound up, house ready for our new tenants, car sold, bikes packed, goodbyes said to all our friends & family – at long last, after months of research, talking and planning, we are well and truly ready for the road. Then in the final days, another blockage! Calais this time; French seamen striking over a change ferry line owneship and the French merchant navy permitting perfidious foreigners to join their ranks! Port blockaded, horrendous traffic backlogs on both sides of La Manche!
It’s all change before we even get going and a new plan is born, one that will take us across Belgium, Germany and on to the Czech Republic and our first visit to Prague. Then a little more of Eastern Europe before swinging South and East to reach Turkey. D-Day for Route 2 is the Sunday 5th July, an auspicious day for travel indeed as it celebrates the anniversaries of the first ever package holiday (1841 from Leicester to Loughborough organized by a Mr. Thomas Cook) and also the launch of the Bikini (went on sale at a Paris fashion show in 1946). Incidentally 5th July is also the birthday of Spam (1937), if we get hungry, and the NHS (1948) if we get sick eating it.
Sunday 5th July: We locked up the house for the last time and were seen off by a small gathering of our lovely neighbours. The beautiful hot sunny weather of the past month deserted us and we rode through rain-drenched roads to Dover for the ferry to Dunkirk. There is surely no more beautiful way to leave these islands than with the White Cliffs as your final backdrop. Fortunately the downpours had moved on and we were treated to a beautiful ‘after-the-rain’ illumination of our beautiful islands.
After a one-nighter in Valenciennes, France, and the inaugural meal of the trip on cuisine de terroir, a true gastronomes delight, we set off chasing our first roads east. The sun was back in all its glory and we settled in for a Wonderful day filled with ‘W’s. Winding through the land of the Walloons, lunch at a ‘Woopy’ Snack bar; frites smothered in mayo, then on to reach our destination for the day; the pretty little dorf of ‘Walluf’, reached by a ferry across the wide waters of the Rhine, where a couple of cool Weiss-bier awaited. We’ll stay here a day or so and then head east and on to Prague!