We’re off again! We left our house in the good hands of Chris and Mary (son and daughter in law), who will live in it while their new abode is being renovated, and set off for the port of Newcastle. The plan was to travel to Ijmuiden in the Netherlands, a sixteen hour crossing with DFDS and a bit of an experiment. We’ve never taken the dogs on such a long crossing before. We checked with DFDS Seaways before we booked to make sure that the dogs could stay in the motorhome and that we could go down to see them during the evening and let them walk about the car deck and have a pee before bed. We had booked an inside cabin with two bunks, in an effort to be frugal, but as we approached the check in desk we saw the magic words “We can upgrade your cabin here”. I asked the pleasant young woman who was booking us in whether we could possibly have a cabin with two lower beds as climbing up into a top bunk is a bit challenging for ladies of mature age and she came up trumps. We were given a twin bedded outside cabin for an extra £10. We were delighted. She then offered us dinner and breakfast in the restaurant for £25 each and here we made a big mistake – we refused the offer, thinking we would get a small meal in the café on board. We discovered our mistake when we found that the small meal in the café cost 19.5 Euros and it was neither healthy nor particularly pleasant. We could have been eating a three course dinner buffet for very little more and a full breakfast in the morning. We live and learn.
You know how you have an image in your mind before you get somewhere and then discover it isn’t like that at all? Well my image of the car deck, even though we’ve been on loads of them, was totally false. I imagined that there would actually be some room to go down and walk the dogs before bedtime. In reality we were jammed in, up close and personal, to enormous trucks and could barely open the doors or squeeze our way to the exits up to the cabins. We were also on the third deck meaning long walks up numerous flights of stairs to the sixth deck where we could access the stairs back down to the fourth deck where our cabin was. The dogs were curled up and looking quite comfortable in their usual sleeping spots so having made sure they had water and a little food we made our way to our cabin feeling like neglectful parents. After our unhealthy meal in the full to bursting, noisy café and a drink in the bar we looked at one another and admitted that we were worried about the dogs. They would be stuck in the van for hours and probably would be scared to death by the clanking on the car decks. The arrangement for visiting the dogs is to go to reception where they provide an escort down to the lower decks. By 9 p.m. we could bear it no longer and Shirley set off, poo bags at the ready, to see how they were. What she found was too happily sleeping pooches who got up reluctantly to be taken out onto the packed car deck where they showed no interest in doing a pee. When she took them back to the van they hopped in and went back to bed without a murmur. Even better, the escort brought Shirley back up the staff stairs straight onto our deck. Early the next morning Shirley, the heroine of the piece, returned to the car decks with an escort, imagining that by now the dogs would be hopping about cross legged and whimpering. Not at all. They looked up sleepily, dutifully got out and refused once more to pee then went back to bed. The only evidence of distress, if you could call it that, was that Poppy had found the spare dog food, opened the bag and munched some of it – a dog version of a midnight feast when the parents are away I assume.
As soon as we were off the boat we pulled into a car park at the port and took the dogs for a walk. They behaved no differently to any other morning, apart from the fact that they peed a river. There was no sign of distress at all! So, we can recommend the DFDS crossing to motorhoming doggy people – it worked a treat and saved us hundreds of miles of driving through England to one of the south coast crossings.
Feeling mightily relieved, the four of us set off to drive right across the Netherlands to the border with Germany where our first stop of the trip was the Crumpse Hoekje Camperplaats. A small campsite for motorhomes on a former dairy farm, right out in the countryside beside the Rhine. It’s our plan to follow the Rhine down through Germany so this looked like an ideal spot. It costs 8€ to stay here and for that you get a lovely level pitch, some grass to sit on and a picnic table. It’s a short bike ride into the nearby town which is right on the Rhine, so after we settled in and walked the dogs we set off to explore. We watched the massive riverboat traffic on the Rhine for a while then found Aldis, let out a cheer of delight and went in to buy some beer and something for dinner. The trip has begun!
See you in Germany.