Friday 30 October 2009

The Snails are ready for the off! Derbyshire to Dover


Well that was all the planning done. Or was it?? There is always that nagging voice in my head that says “you have forgotten something!” and the worry is that it will be something important. Too late - we were packed and ready to go.

But at the last minute, Mr Snail threw a spanner into the works. Instead of coming home from work, having a few hours kip, then leaving home about midnight for a 5am Dover arrival, he decided that we’d leave immediately and sleep somewhere in the Dover area. BUT WHERE?

It was late to book anything, so I trawled the internet to get ideas where others had “wild camped”. I discovered that Canterbury Council have a Park and Ride car park where motorhomes can spend the night, however, if you arrive after 22:00 hrs, the height barrier is in place. So, no good for us.

But we set off anyway without a plan. Yup that’s right - no plan. Never been known for us Snail’s. Scary. I was whittling all the way down about where we would stop for the night.

After a pleasant meal at a Little Chef, I had an inspiration – I’d check the Supermarket Finder book for one with a 24 hour petrol station in the Dover area. I was sure I’d heard that Tesco allows motorhomers to spend the night in their car park as long as they purchased something. Well it was worth a try. Hopefully problem solved.

On arrival at Tesco near Dover, we filled up with diesel (hence becoming a customer) and spotted 2 foreign caravans in the car park with their steadies down. Interesting. As I paid I asked “Is it alright if we spend a few hours in your car park please?” The cashier confirmed it would be ok so we drove in and selected a spot, closely followed by another motorhome. After a chat with the driver he said “safety in numbers” and parked alongside. It was very noisy and not the best pitch we have ever had, but it fulfilled a need.

Getting to the docks was quick and easy. I had our booking documents ready, but they weren’t needed. We were identified by number plate recognition. Clever. All we had to show were our passports. We collected our VIP label for the Executive lounge and were first in the queue. We had upgraded with the Caravan Club to access the lounge on board ship for half price each.

We soon had company on the dock and were very quickly loaded. On board we parked exactly where the deckhand told us. The gas and fridge were switched off; the fridge would be cold enough for an hour and a half to keep the food chilled. We noted the details of the staircase that we ascended, as we wanted to easily return to our ‘van once on the French side, and went to find some breakfast.

The food was OK, the Executive Lounge was comfortable. Neither of us are good sailors and the slight swell made us uncomfortable. The lounge was cool and quiet, with free soft drinks and comfortable chairs, for me to sit and watch the other boats go by and Mr. Snail to snooze in.

Once docked and down to the ‘van, we had a quick check around tyres etc. All in order, just in case we were flagged down by anyone, then we would know that it was a trick which we wouldn’t fall for. We were now ready to hit France…………………



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